The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Linguistics & Social Justice seminar: Choppy, Zelime and Vel

You are invited to participate in our discussion this week, Tuesday, October 5, 2-5pm EST, on “Linguistics and Social Justice: Language, Education & Human Rights”  (MIT Linguistics, Graduate Seminar, 24.S96).   

Penda Choppy, Justin Zelime and Aneesa Vel (University of Seychelles) will help lead the discussion on ”Seychelles Language Policy and Levelling the Field”:

Seychelles is a very small country, and perhaps by virtue of its smallness, it has been able to educate its people to the highest level and across the board. This has earned the archipelago one of the highest ratings for education and literacy in Africa. However, this was not always the case. The success of Seychelles’ education system is based on a series of reforms which were introduced by the leftist government that took power in 1977. These included education and language reforms which were part of the new government’s attempts to “level the field” and bring more equity to education. The target was the eradication of poverty and the social improvement of the Seychellois nation. Prior to the language and other educational reforms (which included the valorization of Kreol, the mother tongue, and its introduction in the education system), the failure rate in the country’s schools was alarming and the official remedial cases reportedly stood at 30%.  Only a small amount of students were successfully completing their studies, and these students came from a very small percentage of the population who were socially and financially privileged. This meant that this small percentage of the population were able to maintain control of the country’s resources. The education reforms of the early 1980s aimed at rectifying this inequality, setting the scene for Seychelles to become the highly educated and modern society it is today. However, bearing in mind that Seychelles is also subject to the postcolonial narratives and syndromes that affect the Global South, we need to ask: Can Seychelles’ success story still be rated as such today?

This seminar will discuss how Seychelles’ language and education policies targeted social justice and how effective it has been over time.

1.     Background on the Seychelles socio-linguistic and historical landscape

2.     The history of the Creole movement in Seychelles and its bearing on issues of social justice

·       Firsthand experience: language learning in Seychelles

·       Firsthand experience: Kreyol in the school programme

3.     The way forward and what linguists can contribute to progress for the future

(Please contact Michel <degraff@mit.edu> for Zoom link.)