Mother tongue vital for improved literacy, numeracy skills —UNESCO

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The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation has said that every mother tongue is vital to literacy because it facilitates the acquisition of basic reading and writing skills, as well as basic numeracy, during the first years of schooling.

The UNESCO, in marking the 20th International Mother Language Day on Thursday, particularly called for the recognition and enforcement of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

According to the News Agency of Nigeria, the call was made by the Director-General of UNESCO, Ms Audrey Azoulay, on the organisation’s website where she sent a message on the theme for the day, Indigenous languages matter for development, peace building and reconciliation.

She said, “For UNESCO, every mother tongue deserves to be known, recognised and given greater prominence in all spheres of public life. This is not always the case. Mother tongues do not necessarily have national-language status, official-language status, or status as the language of instruction. This situation can lead to the devaluation of a mother tongue and to its ultimate disappearance in the long term.

“On this 20th anniversary of International Mother Language Day, we must remember that all mother tongues count and that they are all essential to building peace and supporting sustainable development. A mother tongue is vital to literacy because it facilitates the acquisition of basic reading and writing skills as well as basic numeracy during the first years of schooling. These skills provide the foundation for personal development. A mother tongue is also a unique expression of creative diversity and identity, as well as a source of knowledge and innovation.’’

According to Azoulay, indigenous peoples have always expressed their desire for education in their own languages as set out in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

“The population of indigenous peoples around the world is about 370 million and their languages account for the majority of the approximately 7,000 living languages on earth. Many indigenous peoples continue to suffer from marginalisation, discrimination and extreme poverty, and are the victims of human rights violation. On this International Mother Language Day, I thus, invite all UNESCO member states, partners and education stakeholders to recognise and enforce the rights of indigenous peoples.’’

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