The influence that the use of a familiar language has on learning has long been explored with
suggestions that a child’s mother tongue is the most suited initial language of instruction in
school. In Zambia, however, this is not the case as the majority of people think that young
children should learn to speak in English as soon as possible because this is the language of
education. As a result, songs in English dominate the singing repertoire in pre-schools even
when children have not mastered sufficient English vocabulary. Singing songs in English, just
as teaching children in a language they do not understand, has been shown to hamper learning.
The theoretical lens of indigenous African education underpins the study in order to investigate
how music in the mother tongue in a cultural context can foster educational aims. Research
participants included an expert in Zambian indigenous children’s songs who also acted as
resource person and led 18 children aged between 5 and 6 years in sessions of music in their
mother tongue. The findings of the study revealed that educational implications of children’s
participation in music in the mother tongue can be found in the way in which they are
organised, the activities they involve and in the music elements that characterise them.