INCORPORATING ENGLISH LANGUAGE IN A RURAL CLASSROOM THROUGH THE USE OF ICTS: THE CASE OF A RURAL COMMUNITY IN NAMIBIA
Namibia has adopted the English language as a formal language for communication, therefore, it is necessary that primary schools provide mechanisms to enhance the English speaking skills of learners at an early stage. However, for junior learners in Omuthiya (the regional capital of the Oshikoto region in Namibia) rural communities, this is often a challenge as they are deeply rooted in speaking the Oshindonga language before being exposed to the English language in their early grades at primary level. Hence, they find it difficult to speak and pronounce English words. Furthermore, teachers are expected to teach in their home language when conducting lessons in different subjects except when giving lessons in English. For junior primary learners in Omuthiya rural communities, there is a need to improve methods in which language studies such as English and Oshindonga, are conducted in order for learners to be confident when communicating in both English and Oshindonga. Different Information and Communication Technology (ICT) vocabulary applications have been developed in different parts of the world to assist learners with basic word construction However, none of these applications have been developed specifically to assist learners in Namibian rural communities. The purpose of the study was to develop an ICT vocabulary application to help junior primary learners map English to Oshindonga and vice versa. Using the Rapid Application Development (RAD) software methodology, Visual Basic C# was used to develop the ICT application and MySQL Database Workbench platform was used to host the ICT vocabulary application’s data. The application was designed for two languages, operating on the same application, English and Oshindonga. The application has two operators, the system administrator and the normal user. The teacher takes the role of the system administrator, while junior learners take the role of normal users. Teachers create name sheets of learners in their classroom, enable access to more advanced modules for learners, which is determined by the learner’s performance assessed by their teacher based on the assessment sheet generated automatically by the system. This functionality is accessible by the teacher of that particular class only. Junior learners are granted priviledges by their teachers to access a particular module at a time, once a learner has completed a module it remains accessible to them until the year grade has been completed. The ICT vocabulary application functions on Microsoft Windows platform, it is user friendly as the management and use of the different functionalities are made easy through the application design features. Learners are kept captivated by the interactive mode of learning exercises, that is; listening, reciting, visuals and a performance grading mechanism. Learners build a connection between words they are familiar with and relate them either in English or Oshindonga. The ICT vocabulary application allows junior learners practice word and sentence building, spelling, storytelling, translation from English to Oshindonga and vice versa. The application is designed in a way that will allow other languages to be added onto the system in the future. Therefore, future work would be to examine the impact of the ICT vocabulary application on the English speaking skills of Omuthiya junior learners.