Indigenous Santals have been omitted from a list of five ethnic groups whose children should be receiving school textbooks in their native languages under the the Education Policy 2010.
This year, students from the Chakma, Marma, Garo, Tripura and Sadri groups were given books in their mother tongues.
The government initially included Santals in this list before they were removed due to their “non-cooperation”, according to National Curriculum and Textbook Board (NCTB) chairman Narayan Chandra Saha.
“We are yet to finalize the writing methods and alphabets for the Santal language. The NCTB has also not fixed the number of textbooks Santal students will get,” he said.
Narayan said they distributed nearly 52,000 textbooks to pre-primary students of the minority tribal groups in 2017. He said the government would provide around 112,000 books to pre-primary and grade-I students from these ethnicities.
“The printing work is almost done. The textbooks will be provided to the school authorities shortly so that they can be distributed among the students during the textbook festival on January 1,” he told the Dhaka Tribune.
According to Bangladesh Adivasi Forum, there are 45 ethnic groups in the country who make up about 1% of the population. These groups are believed to use 26 distinct languages.
The Santals and other ethnic groups have long been calling on the government to provide primary education to their children in their mother tongues.
According the Education Policy 2010, the government should provide 100% of textbooks to indigenous students in pre-primary and class-1 in their native languages.
The coverage is supposed to be reduced gradually from grade II onwards. Second graders, for example, should get 75% of books in their mother tongues, while class III students are to receive half in their native languages.
Class IV students should receive a quarter of their books in their mother tongue and are the final year before all books are given in Bangla.