Our mother language right exists on paper
Dhaka, Feb 21 (bdnews24.com) – Students from small ethnic groups, inspired by those who sacrificed their lives for their mother tongue, Bengali, joined the people paying respect to the language martyrs and demanded education in their own mother languages. Parbatya Chattagram Pahari Chhatra Parishad (PCP) brought a banner which did pay respect to the martyrs but also asked: “Whether ‘Adibasi’ (indigenous people, the word they like to be recognised as) have the right to mother languages?”
A leader of the organisation said: “I saw in my own village Sadhanchhara of Khagrachharhi’s Dighinala upazila that many children leave schools due to absence of education in their mother tongues.”
PCP information and publication secretary Trizinad Chakma, a post-graduate student of Dhaka University, said he had to continue to study in a refugee camp in India until eighth grade. “We returned after the [CHT] Peace Accord. But our problem is not solved yet.” Many reports of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) say there are around two million people from small ethnic groups in Bangladesh, which critics call a debatable statistics. But have to study in Bengali and not in their mother tongues.
Garo Students Union, Bangladesh Marma Students Council, Bangladesh Adibasi Chhatra Sangram Parishad and Tripura Students Forum also placed wreaths at the altar of the Shaheed Minar.
‘SYLLABI, BOOKS, TEACHERS, GOVT STEPS NEEDED’
Sohel Hajang, a member of Mother Language Lovers Association’s Bangladesh chapter and a former general secretary of Bangladesh Adibasi Chhatra Sangram Parishad, told bdnews24.com that education in mother languages is one of their most significant demands. “But the demand is yet to be met.”
He said some NGOs have introduced education in Chakma and Rakhain languages for pre-primary students. But the government schools do not have such options.
“Those organisations set up schools. They’ve to print books and make syllabi separately,” he said.
Canada-based Mother Language Lovers Association played a vital role in getting Feb 21 the recognition as the International Mother Language Day.
Mangal Kumar Chakma, information and publication secretary of Parbatya Chattgram Jana Samhati Samiti (PCJSS), of which the PCP is a wing, said the government is bound to facilitate education in mother languages for the ethnic minorities under the Parbatya Zila Parishad Act. “It exists only as in law, not in reality,” he added.
He said it needs printing of books in their mother tongues, appointing skill teachers and arranging many other things, but there is no such step in this regard.
Bangladesh Adibasi Forum general secretary Sanjeeb Drang told bdnews24.com that education in their respective mother language was even included in the last education policy. “But the Adibasis are yet to see execution [of the policy],” he added.
To recognise the importance of linguistic diversity, the UNESCO General Conference proclaimed Feb 21 as the International Mother Language Day in November 1999.
During the proclamation, UNESCO had said existences of 5,000 of 6,000 languages around the globe are in danger, according to Sanjeeb. “Most of them are Adibasi languages.”
He said there had been around 40 ethnic groups in Bangladesh having their own languages, but that of the Koach is nowhere to be found.
“Only two or three people can speak in Kuruk or Barman. The two languages are headed for extinction,” he said.
“Once their languages are lost, their literature, tradition and culture will also be lost. Bangladesh…even the world will be being harmed for this,” he added.
UNESCO director-general Irina Bokova, in a message on the occasion of the International Mother Language Day, said: “Languages are who we are; by protecting them, we protect ourselves.”
Sanjeeb also demanded formation of Adivasi Academy and suggested appointment of teachers from small ethnic groups in the areas inhabited by them.
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