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Lessons from Ekushey

  • Published at 12:15 pm February 21st, 2018
Lessons from Ekushey
The date is etched in history: February 21, 1952. It represents something far beyond just the fight for Bangla as our national language. Its spirit lives at the core of the dreams and aspirations of the people of Bangladesh. Sixty-six years ago, a group of students and activists gathered around the Dhaka University premises to voice their right to speak their own language. It was a historic movement that eventually gave Bangla the official recognition the people demanded. Almost half a century later, February 21 was officially proclaimed by UNESCO as International Mother Language Day. Ekushey is, then, a celebration of a diversity of ways of speaking, and should never be used to justify any sort of oppression. In that case, it is important to remember that our country thrives on the diversity of its own languages. Bangla may be the official language, but many linguistic minorities exist in our land, and they should not be ignored or silenced. We must do more to preserve and promote these endangered languages -- the government has taken a few laudable steps in this regard, such as the publication of textbooks in several indigenous languages. Also a matter of regret is that our country is still plagued by high rates of illiteracy, both in adults and the youth, while secondary and tertiary education reels from its own set of crises. We owe it to the language martyrs to fix these problems as soon as possible, and truly uphold the spirit of Ekushey by fostering a culture of learning, acceptance, and harmony.