Feb 21, 2017

Chittagong Hill Tracts: Community Urges Inclusion of All Mother Languages in Pre-Primary Education

Photo courtesy of Dhaka Tribune

Today, 21 February 2017, marks the 18th annual International Mother Language Day, an initiative by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to celebrate linguistic and cultural diversity. This year’s theme, “Towards Sustainable Futures through Multilingual Education,” strikes a chord with the recent indigenous demonstrations in the Chittagong Hill Tracts. Activists rallied to oppose the blatant limitations posed by the government’s decision to provide pre-primary education materials in only five indigenous languages. More than ten indigenous languages are spoken in the Chittagong Hill Tracts region alone, and the community is concerned that if indigenous students cannot begin early education in their mother tongue, they will be further disadvantaged. The endurance of mother languages is a critical part of promoting global diversity and safeguarding the rights of indigenous and minority communities, as evidenced by the Donostia Protocol to Ensure Language Rights.


The article below was published by Dhaka Tribune:

The government’s move to provide pre-primary textbooks in only five indigenous languages will not suffice to ensure the right to receiving education in one’s mother language, student activists and noted citizens have observed at a rally in Chittagong.

The rally was held at the Shaheed Minar premises in the city following an “Alphabet Parade of All Ethnic Groups,” organised by Greater Chittagong Hill Tracts Hill Student’s Council.

The Alphabet Parade started at 10:30am (17 February 2017) from Cherag Ali intersection and reached the Shaheed Minar premises via Press Club-DC Hill areas.

The organisers put forth their five-point demand including introduction of school textbooks in the languages of all ethnic groups in Bangladesh.

The National Curriculum and Textbook Board this year (2017) distributed 52,000 free textbooks in Chakma, Marma, Garo, Sadri and Tripura languages among around 25,000 students.

As per the 1997 CHT Accord, the government was supposed to provide primary education to the indigenous children in their mother languages.

Educationists, rights activists, and indigenous rights campaigners opined the textbook in a community’s own language is crucial for the indigenous kids so that they can start their education in their mother language and argued it would help reduce the dropout rate among the indigenous communities.

Addressing the rally, Chittagong University (CU) Associate Professor Md Amir Uddin said while textbooks were printed in five indigenous languages, adequate teaching staff was not ensured at the institutions to support that move.

President of Chittagong Metropolitan unit Chhatra Federation Shawkat Ali said Bangla language had been imposed on the children of indigenous communities through their education at schools, though neighbouring Sri Lanka had set an example by making it a rule to sing their national anthem at schools in Singhalese and Tamil languages.