Inculcating pride for their mother tongue in Madia children: Language is more than a medium of communication – Maharashtra

Samiksha Godse-Amte, The Hindu, April 3, 2013 | Read the full article here >>

When an ‘apple’ was shown in a kindergarten class and asked what it was, the question was greeted with silence as the children had never seen one before. But when they were shown a mahua flower; they all came up with numerous answers and experiences associated with the fruit — it is sweet, we all collect those, mother makes delicious stuff with that, the fruit ripens in March, it is soft, so on and so forth. The atmosphere in the classroom became charged with animated chatter. The fruit being an integral part of the children’s life, its taste, season, description and uses could easily be elicited from them. It became possible to teach them the seasons in such a manner that they could integrate new information with the old seamlessly.

The children in the school belong to the Madia community. Madia are a Gondi tribe, of Dravidian race, descended from the Abhujmad hills to the plains of Gadchiroli, originally hunter-gatherers and now doing crude rice-farming.  They are indigenous people, predominantly oral, largely monolingual, with minimal culture contacts.

The first school in the plains was set up in 1976 by volunteers of Lok Biradari Prakalp. Till then the concept of a school was unheard of. Since the area was made a part of Maharashtra State the state language was made the medium of instruction. These people have been a part of Maharashtra since the formation of the new State in independent India. Their language, however, is of Dravidian origin. When states were formed on the basis of language no one bothered to ask our brothers and sisters what their language was. The huge forest land became Maharashtra and the tribe was cut in two, separated by river Indrâvati – one in Maharashtra with State language Marathi and the other in Chhattisgarh where the State language was Hindi – both Aryan languages when their mother tongue was a Dravidian language. […]

Language becomes a major issue in early years of education as it is not just a medium of communication but a link to the entire culture and values of a race. Language is not neutral; it carries the virtues and contexts of the culture it has originated from. It has a very close connection with the ‘known’ factor of children and this nexus proves to be a catalyst in developing an interest in education. […]

Besides, the poorer and backward sections of society tend to think that the state language is a tool to move upward in class and caste hierarchy, that the local, indigenous language is inferior and imitating the upper classes will elevate them in the societal hierarchy. To break this myth, Lok Biradari Ashram School plans to change the language of instruction for kindergarten students from Marathi to Madia. In accordance to The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009, a Multi-Lingual Education programme will be started. […]

All the teachers and programme supervisor are from the community to reduce anxiety and intimidation related to the new school.

(The writer, along with her husband Aniket Amte, grandson of Baba Amte, looks after the tribal school in Hemalkasa.)

A multilingual education programme in Hemalkasa, Gadchiroli aims to inculcate in children pride for their mother tongue

Source: Nurturing one’s own tongue – The Hindu
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