Thursday, 24 May, 2018

Textbooks in Santal language yet to see light

Published on: 9:09 am - Saturday | September 9, 2017

Uncertainty looms over the distribution of free textbooks to Class I Santal students in the hills for next year as the authorities are yet to take any initiative to print them. Sources in the National Curriculum and Textbook Board (NCTB), which is entrusted with the printing, blamed the Directorate of Primary Education (DPE) for the imbroglio. “Only three months remain for distributing the books to the indigenous students who would be promoted from pre-primary to Class I. But we have not received any directive from the DPE on when to begin printing the books,” an NCTB official said on condition of anonymity.

The official also said if the books for the indigenous students were not distributed, it would violate the National Education Policy, 2010 and the Constitution.

“Besides, it would violate the Prime Minister’s commitment to the United Nations’ declaration for ensuring the education of indigenous students,” he added.

On its part, the DPE blamed a conflict over language between two Santal groups for the prevailing confusion. DPE sources said the National Education Policy, 2010, stipulated that indigenous students should study in their own mother tongue at the primary level. “But while one group demands the texts to be printed in Bangla letters, the other wants Roman letters,” a source said.

Speaking to The Independent, Abdur Rouf, the DPE’s director of policy and operations, admitted that no decision has been taken about distributing books to Class I Santal students. “Nothing can be said right now. The conflict between the two groups of Santals is not over yet. Thus, no decision has been taken as yet. The minister would make the final decision after talks with the stakeholders,” he added.

The government started the distribution of free textbooks for pre-primary students of five indigenous communities—Marma, Chakma, Garo, Sadri and Tripura—in their own languages this year.

At least 51,782 books were distributed among 24,641 students in the pre-primary class. Next year, these students would be promoted to Class I, but no steps have been taken as yet for printing books for them.

Besides, the students of Santal community would not get free textbooks in their mother language for the year 2018 because of the conflict between the community leaders over the letters to be printed in the books.

According to the Aims and Objective of the National Education Policy, 2010, the government would take steps “to facilitate learning in the mother languages of the indigenous people and small ethnic groups at the primary level of education”.

Besides, Article 18 of the policy further states: “Measures will be taken to ensure the availability of teachers from ethnic groups and to prepare texts in their own languages so that ethnic children can learn their own indigenous languages. In these initiatives, especially in preparing textbooks, the inclusion of respective indigenous communities will be ensured.”

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