Chapter 7 Mother Tongue Education with Indigenous Trainee Teachers: The Açaí Project
Silva Sinha V., Da Silva Sinha V.
This chapter reports our work on the Açaí Project, a teacher-training programme specifically for Indigenous schoolteachers, focusing on Indigenous schools’ primary years. The project was created in 1997 by the State Education Department of Rondônia (Secretaria Estadual de Educação). The Açaí Project is coordinated by the department with the objective of training native speaker teachers to teach primary years in Indigenous schools. We worked on three stages of this project: preparing pedagogical materials, teaching classes about the Portuguese language and Indigenous languages, and supervising internships. The content was developed in the relevant mother tongues to enhance native speaker teachers’ linguistic knowledge not of but about their mother tongues. Each class was composed of Indigenous students from different ethnolinguistic groups; on average, more than twenty-five languages, mostly endangered, were represented in any given class. The language of instruction was Portuguese because it was the only one known by all the students. The application of our methods sheds light on how to teach the students’ mother tongues, enabling them to produce and share various materials such as vocabulary lists, linguistic expressions, and narratives. This allowed us to promote a stimulating and lively interaction between the students and enabled interactive discussions and learning moments. At the end of the training, each student was equipped to adapt their linguistic knowledge to their own cultural and linguistic reality and to promote their languages, cultures, and traditions and empower their communities.