The choice of the language of instruction in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) is a fundamental educational issue with ramifi cations for educational access and effectiveness and ultimately national development. Indigenous SSA languages have suffered devaluation in colonial and post-colonial SSA education, and this devaluation alienates the majority of SSA people, thus preventing them from participating in their own economic and political growth. Developmental policies that neglect to utilize local people’s talents and knowledge are failed policies. The language of instruction, specifi cally the use of the fi rst or native language (L1) as the medium of instruction, is the key to unlocking these talents and knowledge because doing so will foster knowledge acquisition and preservation of SSA cultures and identities. This will in turn liberate SSA from neocolonialism and pave the way to true progress.

This is a literature-based, position paper that redresses common arguments against L1 instruction, defends the notion of linguistic rights, and demonstrates the ways in which SSA languages can be integrated into instruction via examples that have been successfully implemented throughout SSA.

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