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Tribal languages in govt schools

Jamshedpur, Nov. 11: Government primary schools in the state will introduce “tribal and regional languages” from the next academic session, announced chief minister Madhu Koda at Ghatshila today.

While it will be mandatory for the tribal students to opt for one of the tribal languages, it would be optional for non-tribals.

Koda made the announcement at a meeting of All India Santhali Writers’ Association (AISWA).

Even as the chief minister claimed one of the priorities of his government is to ensure that school students are taught in their mother tongue, he remained silent on one of the major demands of the association — using tribal languages as the medium of instruction in tribal-dominated areas.

AISWA sources said they had been agitating for long to give the students of Santhal-dominated areas the opportunity to study in Santhali. They, however, hailed the chief minister’s announcement and said it marked the beginning of a new chapter.

But the same sources voiced their scepticism and pointed out that the state government was yet to appoint teachers of tribal languages. Merely making the announcement, they said, would not help. The previous Arjun Munda-led government also had promised to introduce tribal languages in schools but had failed to appoint the required teachers, they pointed out. They preferred to keep their fingers crossed.

According to the arrangement the government has agreed to, they said, all the four or five prominent tribal languages will be introduced in schools across the state from the session 2007-08. Students in West Singhbhum, for example, would have the opportunity to opt for Santhali, Mundari, Kurukh or Ho, they claimed.

Although the Ranchi University has had a department of tribal and regional languages for the past 20 years, none of the government schools has been teaching the languages. The languages, therefore, have passed from one generation to another and people have largely preserved the oral tradition.

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