Two years on, the government's bid to facilitate the education of indigenous children in their respective mother tongues is yet to make any impact in hill district Khagrachhari as the textbooks printed in those languages remain unusable.
Yes, the textbooks in Chakma, Marma, and Tripura languages remain unusable. There is no issue with the print quality. Rather, teachers simply do not have the training necessary to incorporate the books into their lesson plans, according to teachers and guardians.
Surobhi Talukdar, head teacher of Perachhara Government Primary School in Khagrachhari Sadar, told the Dhaka Tribune: “I have 36 Chakma and six Tripura students in the pre-primary level, and 58 Chakma and 10 Tripura students in the first grade. We do have the textbooks in their mother languages, but those remain on the shelves unused. The teachers are unable to teach the students using the books as they do not have the necessary training.”
Anuroba Chakma, a guardian of a pre-primary grade girl in that school, said her daughter is not taught to read books in her mother language at school. “Even we cannot read those books. The government must take steps in this regard.”
According to Khagrachhari Primary Education Office, a total of 20,723 students of Chakma, Marma, and Tripura communities in the district received the pre-primary and primary textbooks in their own languages in January 2018.
Meanwhile, the Ethnic Minority Cultural Institute has been facilitating a 15-day training on those textbooks to 90 teachers of Chakma, Marma, and Tripura communities. The training workshop began at the Khagrachhari Primary Teachers' Training Institute on February 7.
Mathura Bikash Tripura, member of an ethnic minority language writers' panel, said facilitating training to such an insignificant number of teachers would not meet the requirement as the task of teaching all the indigenous students in mother tongues is far greater in magnitude.
It is necessary to give training to the teachers of all primary schools, he added.
Khagrachhari District Primary Education Officer Fatema Meher Yasmin said they had already informed the ministry about the requirement of training programs for the teachers to make sure they give lessons using the textbooks in indigenous languages.
As per the 1997 CHT Accord, the government was supposed to provide primary education to indigenous children in their mother languages.
Originally in 2012, state authorities had planned to publish textbooks in six indigenous languages, but they subsequently decided to drop the Santal language from the list.
Pre-primary and first grade students in the Chittagong Hill Tracts received textbooks printed in their languages on the first day of 2018.
The highly acclaimed initiative was first introduced in 2017.