[lg policy] Botswana: We need to do more for mother-tongue

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Fri Feb 26 17:05:10 UTC 2010

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.

Today's thought

"One should respect his motherland,his culture and his mother-tongue
because they are givers of happiness. "


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