“Community-driven movement can help tribal dialects survive”: Support for multi-lingual education based on children’s mother tongues – Odisha

Satyasundar Barik, The Hindu, BHUBANESWAR, June 03, 2017

Lanjia Saura tribal people sit together with their traditional musical instruments at Manikpur as they wait for vehicles to go to the weekly market in Ganjam district of Odisha.

Taking ownership of their rapidly fading languages is crucial for saving and reviving them | To read the full article, and to view this and other photos in full size, click here >>

In dozens of nondescript tribal villages in Odisha’s Rayagada district [see Google map below], every time a woman of the Saura tribe cooks rice for the family, she puts aside a handful of raw rice, which is collected for a community fund from which ‘special’ teachers draw their paltry remuneration. What do these teachers do? They teach Sora, the fading dialect of the tribe, to the young of the community.

“Handfuls of rice contributed by womenfolk is not enough when we confront the gigantic task of saving the Sora dialect. But with this, we ensure ownership of the community in preserving our language,” says Krushna Sabar, secretary of the Malar Mandir Vigyan Selum (MMVS), a Ramanaguda-based cultural forum that runs 30 informal schools to impart language learning. Mr. Sabar has spent 15 years developing software for the Sora script. […]

“Communities are apprehensive that the extinction of their dialects would sound the death knell for their distinct ethnic identities,” says Parmanand Patel, a lead researcher with the government-run Academy of Tribal Languages and Culture (ATLC) in Bhubaneswar.

The Saura, Oraon and Bhumija communities recently sent a memorandum to the Prime Minister’s Office seeking inclusion of their respective languages in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution, which the PMO forwarded to the State government. In May, the ATLC received copies of the two memoranda and was asked to give its views on them. The Odisha government has also been receiving petitions from Gram Sabhas for the inclusion of different dialects in the Eighth Schedule. Community leaders of five tribes — Munda, Bhumija, Koya, Khadia and Oraon — have developed the script for their respective dialects.

Odisha has one of the most diverse tribal populations in India, with 62 tribes, including 13 primitive tribes, residing in the State. They speak 72 mother tongues broadly grouped into 38 languages, 19 of which are nearly extinct. Only four tribal languages here — Santhali, Ho, Sora and Kui Lipi — have a written script. Santhali has already been included in the Eighth Schedule and the Odisha government has recommended Ho be included as well.

In the Gadaba tribe, with a population of 84,689 (2011 Census) in two blocks of the Koraput district, very few can speak their mother tongue Gutab. Researchers apprehend its speakers will be halved over the next ten years. Most members of this tribe now speak either Odia or Desia, another dominant tribal dialect of the region. […]

Tribal dialects began fading more rapidly after Direct-to-Home televisions gained popularity even in forested tribal areas, fetching avid viewership for soap operas in languages that were once alien to the region. In some instances, young tribals are now embarrassed to be seen speaking their mother tongues in public.

Experts feel that a strong community-driven movement can help tribal dialects survive. The Santhali language — now a medium of education in 550 primary schools — has been revived in large areas of Keonjhar and Mayurbhanj after the Santhal community made consistent efforts to save it.

The State government adopted the Multi-Lingual Education (MLE) programme in 2006, in which the mother tongue of tribal children is used as the medium of instruction for five years of primary education. Of the 24 tribal languages included in MLE, primers (primary learning materials) have been developed for 21 languages so far. In the primers, the Odia script is followed for tribal dialects.

The Odisha government has appointed 3,385 tribal language teachers for the MLE programme. In another initiative, the State has started preparing dictionaries for 20 tribal languages, two of which have been published while eight others are nearing completion. It is hoped that as the community-driven efforts take root, the withering of tribal dialects can be prevented.

Source: Tribal communities in Odisha are speaking up to save their dialects – The Hindu
Address: http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/tribal-communities-in-odisha-are-speaking-up-to-save-their-dialects/article18713925.ece
Date Visited: Wed Aug 09 2017 18:38:30 GMT+0200 (CEST)

[Bold typeface added above for emphasis]

Sora songs and musical Instruments

Filmed by Jutta Winkler, Produced and Edited by Rolf Killius
Tamegorjang Village, Orissa & Rungrungra Village, Orissa

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