Remarks by Dr. Evangeline Njoka, MBS Secretary General/CEO Kenya National Commission for UNESCO during the  International Mother Language day

Remarks by Dr. Evangeline Njoka, MBS Secretary General/CEO Kenya National Commission for UNESCO during the International Mother Language day

Remarks by Dr. Evangeline Njoka, MBS Secretary General/CEO Kenya National Commission for UNESCO during the  International Mother Language day on 21st February, 2019 at Nyakiamo stadium in Homabay County.

Director General UNESCO Regional Office for Eastern Africa,

County Commissioner of Homa Bay County

County Director of Education

CECs present

Academicians

Community elders

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It gives me great pleasure to join you on this very important day to celebrate the International Mother Language. The International Mother Language Day was proclaimed by the General Secretary of the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in November 1999 through a Declaration. Subsequently, the resolution called upon Member States “to promote the preservation and protection of all languages used by peoples of the world”. And is celebrated on 21st February annually. While the day is aimed at promoting linguistic cultural diversity and multilingualism it also encourages people to maintain the knowledge of their mother languages.

The Global theme for 2019 Mother Language Day is: Indigenous languages matter for development, peace building and reconciliation”. This is because language has the capacity to reconcile the ideas and values of people from diverse cultural, social, economic, religious and professional backgrounds. It is a key contributor to dialogue, reconciliation, tolerance and peace as language matters for sustainable development. Now more than ever, people have realized that the role of language is essential for quality education, economic growth, socio-cultural development and peaceful dialogue among various cultures and civilizations. It therefore is a key component for the creation of truly inclusive, open, diverse and participatory knowledge societies.

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Constituting an essential part of an ethnic community, mother language is a carrier of values and knowledge, very often used in the practice and transmission of intangible cultural heritage. The spoken word in mother language is important in the enactment and transmission of virtually all intangible heritages, especially in oral traditions and expressions, songs and most rituals. Using their mother tongue, bearers of specific traditions often use highly specialized sets of terms and expressions, which reveal the intrinsic depth oneness between mother tongue and the intangible cultural heritage. All moves to promote the dissemination of mother tongues will serve not only to encourage linguistic diversity and multilingual education but also to develop fuller awareness of linguistic and cultural traditions throughout the world and to inspire solidarity based on understanding, tolerance and dialogue

Languages, with their complex implications for identity, communication, social integration, education and development, are of strategic importance for people and planet. Yet, due to globalization processes, they are increasingly under threat, or disappearing altogether. When languages fade, so does the world’s rich tapestry of cultural diversity. Opportunities, traditions, memory, unique modes of thinking and expression that are valuable resources for ensuring a better future, are also lost.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The rate of language endangerment and disappearance has increased significantly over the past decades due to rapid social, political and economic transformations in the world. Disappearing language is a cause for serious concern that over 50% of some 6700 languages spoken nowadays are in danger of disappearing.Globally 40% of the population does not have access to an education in a language they speak or understand. Only a few hundred languages have genuinely been given a place in education systems and the public domain, and less than a hundred are used in the digital world.

Nevertheless, progress has been made in mother tongue-based multilingual education with growing understanding of its importance, particularly in early schooling, and more commitment to its development in public life. UNESCO’s Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger is intended to raise awareness about language endangerment and the need to safeguard the world’s linguistic diversity among policy-makers, speaker communities and the public, and to be a tool to monitor the status of endangered languages and the trends in linguistic diversity at the global level.

Today there is growing awareness that languages play a vital role in development, in ensuring cultural diversity and intercultural dialogue, but also in strengthening co-operation and attaining quality education for all, in building inclusive knowledge societies and preserving cultural heritage, and in mobilizing political will for applying the benefits of science and technology to sustainable development.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is my hope that coming to celebrate the International Mother Language day here is expected to promote the Abasuba cultural heritage and language. It is my hope that the current and future generation will take the initiative to promote and preserve their mother language and cultural heritage as it forms part of their identity. I call upon the government through ministries of education and culture, CBOs and NGOs, community leaders and parents to instill and encourage the use and promotion of mother language and pride in their cultural backgrounds to the children especially in the early childhood education.

Thank you and God bless you.

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