At school they learn Bangla and English taught by Bangali teachers, but if the students were taught in Santhali, it would have helped them to understand the texts better
A lack of textbooks in the mother language and shortage of teachers from their own communities have been hampering the schooling of nearly 9,000 indigenous children, mostly Santals, in four upazilas of Dinajpur's Hili.
The Santhali language, spoken by over a hundred thousand indigenous people in the upazilas of Hakimpur, Birampur, Nawabganj, and Ghoraghat, is on the verge of extinction as there are no textbooks in their distinctive dialect or teachers to impart it to their children.
Children from such tribes as Santal, Urao, Mahali, Mahato, Khak, Humir and Muchi are being taught in Bangla, which is tough for most primary goers. And students practising a bi-lingual approach to education in school are facing problems distinguishing between the two languages.
Suman Toppo, a high school student of Chhatni Chowmuhani Adarsha High School, believes his results and studies would have been much better if he, along with other students, could study in Santhali.
Acknowledging his desire to study in his own language, he said: "We somehow adapted to Bangla to interact with other students in school but often children who cannot speak in Bangla either lose interest in school or become dropouts."
Basanti Khalko, another student of the school, noted that only 40 indigenous children studied at the school but if the authorities could provide the school with proper textbooks and teachers in their mother languages, more of their people could have been educated.
At school they learn Bangla and English taught by Bangali teachers, but if the students were taught in Santhali, it would have helped them to understand the texts better, according to other students of the school.
The ethnic children read Bangla and English texts, but cannot speak the languages clearly. They would be more interested in learning had the textbooks been in their mother language, said a teacher of the school.
Roop Lal Tirki, president of Hakimpur's "Khudra Nri-Gosthhi Sarbik Gram Unnayan Samity, said:"Our languages are on the verge of extinction and even our children are forgetting our dialect for lack of practice".
"Most people do not even know that we have a different dialect," said Roop. He demanded that the authorities take measures to save indigenous languages and ensure proper education for the children of indigenous families.
Acknowledging the problem, Hakimpur Higher Secondary Education Officer Borhan Uddin said: "We know about the problems. If we get demands from the schools on the issue, we will surely discuss them with the higher authorities and act accordingly."