We need to do more for mother-tongue

Last Saturday in Molepolole, the country commemorated the International day of mother-tongue. This is indeed a big step as it signifies that authorities recognise the importance of Mother Tongue in the linguistic and total development of a human being.

The importance of a commemoration such as this one is to help sensitise members of the public and to induce interest on the significance of Mother Tongue. The hope is that at the end of the day the event will generate interest. It is pleasing to note that at the Molepolole commemoration there was widespread interest and many other interest groups of varied persuasions participated. Noteworthy is the minister of Sports, Youth and Culture, Shaw Kgathi who gave a speech that shows that there is movement in the right direction. However, it has to be noted that the importance of Mother-tongue can never be resolved by making feel-good speeches and commemorations. Commemorations should actually be preceeded by a lot of structural reforms in our policies.

Our language policy should first of all recognise the centrality of mother-tongue in education, mass media, development and other spheres. Mother tongue is not just about a means of communication, it is a carrier of culture and the best form of expression and comprehension to anyone. This realisation alone will unlock almost everything that stood in the way of language development. The sad reality in Botswana is that there is an illusion that Botswana is linguistically monolithic. It has long been proven that there are a number of languages that are spoken in Botswana and the sooner these are recognised the richer we will be. For a long time many languages have been subsumed under others. In a report carried in our edition yesterday it is reported that many languages that are spoken in Botswana are dying as speakers of these languages are suffocated and made ashamed to speak these languages in public.This country has every reason to celebrate its many languages. We have nothing to fear other than to promote and encourage these languages to co-exist. There is of course every danger in taking away the space for these languages to co-exist as that is tantamount to killing other people's identities and culture. We believe our education and our ability to do well in the sciences will be enhanced once we allow students to learn in their mother-tongue up to a certain point in their studies. The Chinese and other nationalities have since debunked the myth that science, Maths and technology can only be leant in European languages like English, French, Spanish and Portuguese. Cultural groups should put pressure on parliament to bring on board a language policy, community radio stations and to create an enabling environment that will make it possible for Mother-Tongue to flourish and be used freely without shame. The open use of mother tongue will banish all these perceptions of principal and minor tribes. When people are allowed, protected and encouraged to use their language this will lead to tribal harmony and equality. Before many other languages die we implore everyone to play a part in saving our legacy from ruin.

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