The paper aims to examine the policy of mother-tongue medium of instruction as a way of challenging educational disadvantages and enhancing sustainable development in Africa. The overall illiteracy rate is approximately 70% and recent facts and figures from UNESCO’s 2010 Education for All Global Monitoring Report show that Africa is lagging behind in the Education for All 2015 objectives. Outcomes from regional conferences on education in Africa are reviewed, such as the 1990 Jomtien conference and the Organisation for Economic Community development and Programme for International Student Assessment consortium (OECD-PISA,2000) research on the impact of mother tongue. The article considers efforts being made in Africa in terms of mother-tongue projects, such as the Ife primary project in Nigeria, and their findings. It concludes that there is a need for a pragmatic approach to the medium of instruction whereby mother tongue and foreign languages will be on an equal basis and prevent the creation of a ‘psychological gap detrimental to all cognitive maturation and intellectual development of the child’ (Chumbow: 1986).