The government's initiative of providing indigenous children with free textbooks, printed in their mother languages, faces a setback in Sylhet division due to a shortage of teachers trained to teach in those languages.
Students and guardians of the ethnic communities were excited after the government in 2017 started to print and distribute textbooks in primary-level curriculum to prevent dropout of indigenous children from schools.
But thanks to poor planning, the primary schools are yet to get sufficient teachers who have the language skills for giving lessons using the textbooks in the indigenous languages.
Directorate of Primary Education (DPE) initially introduced curriculum in five indigenous languages for pre-school grade in 2017, first grade the next year and second grade this year.
According to DPE, they distributed textbooks in three indigenous languages -- Tripura, Garo and Sadri -- to a total of 701 students at 35 schools in Sylhet division this year.
Dipok Chandra Sharma, headmaster of Isachhara Government Primary School in Moulvibazar's Kulaura upazila, said a large number of students in the school are from Garo community.
“Although the students now get textbooks in their mother tongue, there's no trained teacher who can teach in Garo language here,” he said.
Smol Simsang, a second grader at the school, said, “I've got new books this year too. But my books go unused as the teacher cannot properly teach or pronounce in my language.”
The shortage of teachers trained to teach in a particular indigenous language will hinder the objectives of distributing textbooks to indigenous students, said Jeneral Dhar, headman of Isachhara punji, adding that a Monipuri teacher cannot teach in Garo language properly.
"The higher authorities have been informed of the situation and work is on to address the situation," said Bayazid Khan, district primary education officer in Moulvibazar.
The initiative of providing textbooks in the mother tongues of ethnic children will not achieve its goal unless sufficient teachers are trained for the purpose, said AFM Zakaria, associate professor of anthropology at Shahjalal University of Science and Technology.
Asked for his comments over the issue, AKM Safyet Alam, deputy director of DPE in Sylhet division, said, "The government is planning to train teachers on particular subjects and recruit indigenous teachers for teaching in indigenous languages."c