For long, indigenous communities have been calling for the option of primary education for their children in their own mother tongues.
Education Minister Nurul Islam Nahid, then, deserves praise for finally taking a step towards making this possible. Children from five different communities will now be able to complete their pre-primary educations in their own languages, with textbooks being distributed in Chakma, Marma, Garo, Kokborok, and Sadri.
Bangladesh is a nation enormously proud of its linguistic heritage. The history of our struggle to speak our mother tongue Bengali, and the blood that was shed on February 21, 1952, is central to our character and our aspirations as a nation, and has resonated throughout the world.
But our protection of language cannot be limited to Bengali. There are an estimated 45 minority ethnic groups in Bangladesh, who speak 26 different languages.
These 26 languages face a very real struggle against extinction, as they have, so far, not been taught in schools. Communities have not had the resources to publish books in these languages, and most of them do not use the Bengali script.
If we truly value the spirit of our mother tongue, we must extend these rights to all those who call themselves Bangladeshi. This means, we must help indigenous communities make their voices heard, so they may uphold their rich cultural heritage.
Better recognition of indigenous languages would also go a long way towards enabling better dialogue and a more harmonious relationship between Bengalis and minority communities.
Enabling early education for indigenous children in their mother tongues will go a long way towards fostering inclusivity, and upholding the linguistic heritage of the country which we hold so dear.