Indigenous leaders have called on the government to start primary-level education in their mother languages and demanded an announcement by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in this connection on International Mother Language Day.
The leaders placed the demand while they were being interviewed by this correspondent yesterday regarding their expectations on the occasion of this year's Ekushey February.
Ujjal Smrity Chakma, coordinator of United People's Democratic Front (UPDF) Khagrachhari, said members of 13 minority indigenous communities, who speak in 10 separate mother tongues, had been demanding for long to start primary education in their own languages to ensure their rights.
“I call on the prime minister to declare her government's roadmap to start mother tongue-based primary education and I expect an announcement by her on February 21," he said.
Indigenous leader and former Khagrachhari Hill District Council chairman Monindra Lal Tripura said as per Article-3 of the Parbatya Zila Parishad Act 1989, the government should start primary education for indigenous children in their mother languages.
“We expect the official declaration in this connection on February 21."
Another indigenous leader Shaktipado Tripura said the government signed a peace accord with Parbatya Chattagram Jana Sanghati Samity (PCJSS) on December 2, 1997. As per Article-33 of the deal, the government should ensure primary education of all indigenous children in their mother languages.
Sudha Sindu Khisha also said as per the peace accord, it was mandatory that the government ensures at least primary-level education for indigenous children in their mother tongues.
"Actually, we included the section aimed at ensuring quality education, increasing children's ability to learn, having a clear conception of their own languages and tradition, stoppage of child repression, child marriage as well as child labour, decreasing dropouts and increasing attendance in schools," he added.
Another PCJSS leader Sudhakar Tripura said if indigenous children learn their own cultural tradition through their mother tongues, schooling could have become more enjoyable. They might come to schools regularly.
Chakma language is being used at Chakma villages, Kokborok language at Tripura villages while Marma language at Marma villages, he added.
JSS leader Jatindra Lal Chakma said the government needs to mother tongue-based primary education in CHT area.
"It will encourage our indigenous children to go to schools and learn practically."
He expects that the incumbent premier will deliver her commitment to begin primary education in indigenous languages.