Chittagong Hill Tracts: No Education in Mother Tongue
Despite its obligations and promises, the Bangladeshi government is yet to provide indigenous communities with primary education in their mother tongue.
Below is an article written by Jasim Majumder and published by The Daily Star:
The government is yet to take any step to start primary education in mother languages of the people of 13 indigenous communities living in Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) which was mandatory as per CHT peace accord.
It has been alleged that both the governments of the BNP and the Awami League (AL) failed to show good intention in implementing the programme.
As per Article 33 of CHT Peace Accord, 1997, the government should ensure primary education of all indigenous children in their mother languages.
CHT Affairs Ministry sources said, members of 13 minority indigenous communities who speak in 10 indigenous languages had been demanding for a long time to start primary education in their own languages to ensure their equal rights.
The government signed a peace treaty with the Parbatya Chattagram Jano Sanghati Samity (PCJSS) on December 2, 1997.
The government should start primary education of all indigenous children in indigenous languages, according to Article-3 of the Parbattay Zila Parishad Act,1989.
However, Save the Children, an international organisation, has been implementing the programme in Rangamati, Bandarban and Khagrachhari hill districts.
The project was launched under banner of 'Shishur Khamatayon Prakalpa' early this year .
The programme was aimed at ensuring quality education, increasing children's ability to learn, to have a clear conception of their own languages and tradition, stoppage of child repression, stoppage of child marriage and child labour, decreasing school dropouts and increasing attendance in schools.
Save the Children has been implementing the five year project titled, 'Ongkur' in Khagrachhari at a cost of Tk 3 crore in collaboration with Zabarang Kallayan Samity, a local NGO.. Save the Children has been spending much more money in two other hill districts of Rangamati and Bandarban for the purpose.
Sixty schools of three upazila including Khagrachhari Sadar, Dighinala and Panchhari were earmarked for its implementation. All the schools were situated in remote areas of the district. About 1,255 indigenous children are pursuing studies in their mother languages.
Zabarang Kallayan Samity sources said, Chakma language is being used at Chakma villages, Kokborok language is being used at Tripura villages and Marma language is being used at Marma villages.
In the process, the children are learning their own culture and tradition. Schooling has become enjoyable to indigenous children. They come to school regularly.
Monotosh Chakma, Project Officer (PO) of Panchhari upazila said, Shishur Kamatayon Project has brought new hope to indigenous children. They are learning about their rights and privileges, he said.
Indigenous writer Deshmoni Tanchangga has expressed his pleasure and happiness at the initiative.
Zabarang Kallayan Samity executive director Mothura Tripura said they are trying to set up more schools for the purpose. 'It willencourage our indigenous children to go to school and learn practically,' he said.
Khagrachhari Hill District Council (KHDC) chairman Monindra Lal Tripura lauded both the Save the Children and Zabarang Kallayan Samity for implementing the project.
'It is heartening to note that indigenous children are learning in their own languages'. 'More schools will be brought under the project', he said.