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Tribal children learn in own language

Preserving mother tongue to help kids learn better

Tribal children learn in own language
Tribal Garo kids in front of their school in Mymensingh diocese
Sujon Jengcham, Mymensingh

April 4, 2011

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People in the predominantly tribal Garo Mymensingh diocese in northwestern Bangladesh have introduced own-language text books for primary school children to preserve their mother tongue. Until this year tribal children used to study in Bangla (Bengali), the state language and mother tongue of Bengali people. The initiative covers about 150 Catholic schools in 14 parishes of the diocese. “We’re ethnically weak and small in number. The culture of the majority group outshines our age-old culture. Language is the reservoir and bearer of culture. Learning the language well, the new generation will boost our cultural heritage,” said commission chairman Father Camillus Rema. Speaking on the sidelines of International Day for Children Books on April 2, Father Rema said: “We hope this initiative will help our small ethnic group survive, because of proper practice.” Center for Indigenous People Research and Development director Albert Mankhin, 63 pioneered the initiative. He said, “We see our future in our children, so we’ve produced a text book in own language. We’ve printed 4,000 books in three categories for children of various classes in primary and soon we’ll produce 8,000 more.” The initiative is well appreciated. “During our time there were no such books in the school, so our children are lucky get the chance. It will help them learn lessons easily and also teach them language,” said Berina Chambugong, 45, a Garo housewife. Her three children scarcely speak the mother tongue. Catholic school teacher Minu Mrong, 61, said: “Education in tribal language will be very efficacious. There is nothing better in education than getting it in mother tongue.” Tribal people from various ethnic groups make up about 3 million of country’s 160 million people. BA13843.1648
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