Published: 11:45 PM, 08 August 2020 Last Update: 02:43 PM, 09 August 2020
The joy of learning in mother tongue education is unbelievable, especially if employed in academic learning. I had the opportunity to work with ethnic children of Chattogram Hill Tracts (CHT), notably in the district of Rangamati and Khagrachari, where it was proven that the use of mother tongue probes to be very effective in multilingual education.
This year, on International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples (August 9), I like to share not only my understanding and the success of this process, but also my personal experience in this regard, which has been nothing but a learning ecstasy.
Narratives, especially folklores and stories from their own culture, were introduced in both long forms, and short stories, to the students studying of pre-primary school till grade 5. The stories, being traditional and from their own context, were an enjoyable session for the listeners as it was designed to imitate the setting of a story session with grandparents, where learning was subconscious and yet effective.
The smiling faces of these overjoyed kids, giggling, swaying away or bumping into each other, sometimes clapping and almost always laughing -- these are some of the most cherished memories from the class hours. I also clearly remember incidents when the storytellers would actually enact the stories, like making different sounds to represent animals and mimic the common movements made by a ghost or witch, among other characters from their stories.
While visiting these classes, I would often time-travel to my childhood days, recalling my story circles with my grandparents, aunty and cousins, who are no longer amongst us today. During this period, I also tried to draw a distinction between their respective local cultures and borrowed western cultures which are often adopted from western traditions and practices.
Every once in a while, I requested the grandparents to switch between the stories as exposure to different cultures will not only give them an insight into the richness of other cultures around them but would also make each day's story and learning experience unique.
The children, with keen eyes and tied lips, would attentively listen to the foreign cultures and try to understand and compare aspects with their own,, giving them a scope to develop creative thinking and cognitive behaviour. However, each time the students were reminded of their own cultural and social practices, the students could connect more to the session and it made them emotional and nostalgic.
Walking down my memory lane, some thoughts leave me nothing but worries. Most of the ethnic community resides in the remote areas of the CHT, where online education is a daydream. I wonder how my toddling peers are spending their days in the Corona virus pandemic.
While my heart questions me if there is anyone who has the same concern as myself, mind is calmed when I think of ways this problem could be solved, for instance opening a mobile library would keep them close to the reading culture, or they also, like mainstream children, could pursue digital learning if modern technologies were facilitated in their home ground. While time is an asset, I also agree with the proverb: "A stitch in time saves nine"; but how do I sew my needle?
The writer works with The Asian Age.