Indigenous language in education | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, February 16, 2016 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, February 16, 2016

People's Voice

Indigenous language in education

“If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.” - Nelson Mandela.

An indigenous student of Dhaka University, who resides in Jagannath Hall, was stating his happiness with the state language as well as feeling sorry for his mother tongue. 'I can now fluently speak in Bangla what I want to express. But till studying in Notre Dame College, the state language was not in my control. I passed the days at primary and high school without questioning the teachers for something unknown or need to know. The teachers were from Bengali community and unable to understand my mother tongue. I had to let the time go looking the classmates raising questions and feeling inferiority and thinking that if I were Bengali, I could ask. Now I can interact easily. But the problem is I can no longer speak my mother language fluently as the time before and am gradually losing my confidence to communicate in own tongue with other persons from same community.' The above stated expression is not only of that education seeker, but also of many students whose mother tongue is not Bengali language.

The mother language is one of the most important treasures for a nation. It is an inalienable part for the development of intellectual, physical and moral of education. Habits, values and beliefs are enshrined to a person through the mother tongue. Our heroes fought for Bengali language dating back over sixty years. That fight was for protesting a step taken by then government to subdue the language and identity of a culture. We sacrificed more than any nation in the world for language. So it is supposed that we understand the necessity and importance of mother tongue. But are we worried about some other languages facing threat of extinction before our eyes as a result of using everywhere Bengali language?

There are more than forty languages spoken by indigenous people in Bangladesh. Each of these languages represents a special culture and asset. But the children of those languages don't have scope and opportunities to learn and study in mother tongue from primary level. Those children are forced to switch abruptly from learning in their mother tongue to schooling in a second language. Their self-confidence as learners and their interest in what they are learning gradually decline, leading to lack of motivation, school failure and more importantly, early school drop-out.

Understanding the fact, the govt. enacted the National Education Policy in 2010 to ensure a creative, favourable and joyful environment for the students for their proper protection and congenial developments. The PRSP, Child Rights Convention, ILO Convention No. 107 and other international conventions had been taken into consideration before framing the Policy and as such, education in own indigenous languages was included in sections 18, 19 and 20 of the Policy. As a first step, government decided to start the implementation process through publishing books for the five ethnic languages in primary level. From the government side, it was stated in 2013 that books of indigenous languages would be delivered to the children of those five languages.

The years of 2014-2015 are gone and 2016 has started. But yet the indigenous children are waiting to have the golden books. Materials for publication were developed in 2015 arranging three workshops where representatives from five communities participated. Now, the reason of not publishing is common question lamenting in the mouth of indigenous peoples.

Those people are little bit disappointed but haven't left hope and expectation. They dream their children will study in own language, raise question without any hesitation and overcome language barriers to seek knowledge.

 

The writer works in Bangladesh Judicial Service.

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