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Language uniquely defines us

BY: Patrick Twumasi
File photo
File photo

International Mother Language day was initiated by Bangladesh in 1999 and approved by the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) General Conference in 2000.

The day is celebrated annually on the February 21, drawing attention to the uses of mother tongues in education.

The theme for this year’s celebration was “Using Technology for Multilingual Learning: Challenges and Opportunities".

The theme queries authorities in education on how technology has been used to aid multilingual literacy in Ghana.

We employ technology every day, but do we have names for the various techs in the local languages?

For instance, what name do you give to Twitter, WhatsApp, YouTube or Instagram in Ga, Akan, Ewe, Dagbani, Guan, Dagomba, Gonja etc.?

Language is the repository for every individual’s unique identity, culture, history, tradition and memory.

Additionally, language has a relevant role in daily interaction.

It is also a tool for dialogue and information, education, social integration and development.

Multilingual

Being multilingual has immense value. We all need to collaborate to enhance multilingualism in education through technology to enrich our unique cultures.

Thus, we must focus on opportunities in the application of technology to multilingual learning and to overcome any challenges thereof.

The application of diverse languages has loads of opportunities to offer.

It also dovetails into the relevance of cultural and linguistic diversity to sustainable societies.

The reason is that the transmission and preservation of traditional knowledge and cultures exist through diverse languages.

Nevertheless, the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic caught Ghana and the world unprepared.

Ghana's teaching and learning has been interpersonal. The sudden flip to intermediate teaching and learning posed challenges.

Some teachers lack the requisite skills and preparedness to deploy distance learning coupled with the absence of the needed equipment, internet access, adapted content and the necessary human support for distance learning.

Furthermore, the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) indicates that nearly 3.7 billion of the world's population do not have access to the Internet.

The majority are from least developed countries tied to urban-rural disparities. Additionally, 7.7 per cent in Sub-Saharan Africa are estimated to have no home-based computer, with approximately 2.2 per cent without access to the Internet at home.

In addition, a UNESCO, UNICEF, World Bank, and OECD study on national education responses to the COVID-19 pandemic school closures of 143 countries, found out that 96 per cent of high-income nations were able to provide for remote learning through an online platform for at least one education level compared to only 56 per cent of low-income countries.

However, low-income countries are using mediums such as television and radio, which account for 83 per cent and 85 per cent respectively.

Challenges

In addition to the above challenges, globally, 50 per cent of the world's population do not have access to education in a language they speak or understand.

It invariably leaves many learners behind, thereby affecting the quest to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 4.

It thus calls on all to work for the multilingual literacy for development.

However, technology has what it takes to leverage the difficulties of education today.

Progress in multilingual-based teaching is gaining traction with a growing understanding of importance.

Nevertheless, advocacy for policy in this direction would bring a compressive transformation expected.

The change expected should start from early childhood introduction of multilingual education, which will stick and stay with the young generation and preserve our rich and cherished traditions and culture.

Let's look critically at how well we have developed and utilised our mother tongues in educating the citizenry to the advantage of Ghana.
Let us open up to the benefits of tech to the enhancement and enrichment of our local languages.

The writer is Head, Public Relations, Complementary Education Agency (CEA), formally Non-Formal Education Division (NFED), Ministry of Education (MoE).
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