Dhaka,  Tuesday
23 April 2024

Language Diversity Of Ethnic Communities

Editor, The Daily Messenger

Published: 03:31, 23 February 2024

Language Diversity Of Ethnic Communities

Photo : Collected

The United Nations declared International Mothers Language Day to commemorate Language Martyrs Day on 21st February.

Simultaneously, Bangladesh also recognised the century-old languages spoken and written by the ethnic communities.

Since Sheikh Hasina took charge as Prime Minister, her government has embarked on saving their languages through textbooks since 2010.

The language minorities (in order) are the Urdu-Speaking-Community (known as Biharis) and Chakma are 0.3 per cent, while Meitei, Khasi, Santhal, Garo, Oraon, Munda, and Rohingya on average, are 0.1 per cent.

The government took the initiative to save these languages by including education in their mother tongue in the national education policy.
However, very little progress has been made towards the achievement of this goal in the last 14 years.

Bangladesh's ethnic population, according to the 2022 census, stood at 1.65 million from 50 ethnic minority groups, or less than 1.1 per cent of the country’s total population of 175 million.

The International Mother Language Institute estimates that 14 languages of the minority groups of Bangladesh are in danger of extinction. However, the indigenous rights groups claim that the number of languages threatened is much higher.

Unfortunately, children of ethnic communities living in the country start to learn the national language Bangla after failing to grasp their academic lessons during the first year of their school.

In 2017, the children of the Chakma, Marma, Tripura, Garo and Sadri (spoken by Kurukh people in Sylhet tea gardens) communities received textbooks written in their ethnic dialects.

Meanwhile, the government has not taken fresh initiative after the development of textbooks in five ethnic languages namely Chakma, Garo, Kokborok, Marma and Sadri, to address the linguistic challenges.

A researcher with Islamic University in Kushtia stated that the contributing factor to the drop-out of ethnic groups from schools is the lack of access to education in their mother tongue. Other issues include poverty, lack of awareness, distant schools, and insecurity.

The Bangladesh Anthropolinguistics Survey identifies that ethnic community leaders also have a responsibility to promote education in their languages.
Linguistic experts identified the challenge continues because of the process of educating these groups in their mother tongue.

The inclusivity of language diversity by the government is worth mentioning, but the shortage of teachers specialised in ethnic languages prompted the authorities to start making a training manual.

Training teachers to teach in ethnic languages remains a major hurdle in imparting education in their mother languages.
Once the tasks of creating textbooks, appointing teachers for those languages, and providing them with training will benefit the students.

The Chairman of the National Curriculum Textbook Board (NCTB) laments that textbooks in five ethnic languages without proper implementation are meaningless. What NCTB meant was the ethnic books were published before the teachers were trained, which made the exercise futile.
A horse before the cart!