The mother tongue – identity and education

Who more than a Swiss NGO such as Enfants du Monde has a vocation to celebrate the International Mother Language Day? The country has four national languages: the mother tongue depends on whether you were born in one of the four corners of the country. For Enfants du Monde, this emblem of identity also allows access to education.

Mother tongue as a gateway to education

In countries in which we intervene, it is common for children from the same country or region to speak different languages at home than the official language used at school. In Guatemala about twenty Mayan languages coexist with Spanish. In Burkina Faso, more than sixty national languages are mixed with the official French. Chad has more than 140 local languages in addition to the country’s two official languages, French and classical Arabic.

In order to facilitate children’s learning at school, Enfant du Monde advocates bilingual education in the mother tongue and in the official language. We work with local teams to develop educational materials that are rooted in the language, culture and daily environment of children, thus allowing for a better assimilation of subjects.

Ruffine Samma Yeko, Pedagogical Director of the Enfants du Monde program in Chad.

It is important to know that, in general, in Africa, teaching is not done in the language of children. The program of Enfants du Monde is based on the language of the pupil, based and embedded in his/her daily life and culture so that he/she can understand what he/she is learning; therefore, he/she learns more quickly.

A historic day to celebrate language rights

On February 21, 2000, the International Mother Language Day was proclaimed by UNESCO and has been celebrated since then to promote linguistic and cultural diversity and multilingualism.

During the ceremony of its first celebration, the Secretary General of the United Nations Kofi Annan said that this day makes all peoples aware of the value of languages. Reaffirming the paramount importance of preserving their diversity, the Secretary-General called for increased efforts to languages as a shared heritage of humanity.

Nelson Mandela once said:

If you speak to someone in a language he understands, you are speaking to his head; if you speak to them in their own language, you are speaking to their heart.

My donation makes a difference

For example:

With 70 francs:

I offer a bilingual French and Mooré (local language) textbook to 8 children in Burkina Faso to help them better progress in school.

With 140 francs:

I allow 250 pregnant women in Bangladesh to be prepared for the birth of their babies and the risks associated with their childbirth.

With 200 francs:

I finance continuing education in bilingual education to 10 teachers in Guatemala to improve the quality of their lessons.