The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has challenged learning institutions and students to embrace their mother tongue languages, faulting any child who doesn’t understand concepts in local languages might find it hard to understand them in other languages.
Speaking at Pwani University, Coast regional Director for UNESCO Julius Mwahunga said that indigenous languages help students to understand the beauty of their tradition and cultural heritage.
”Schoolers need to learn and speak their local languages and this is one of the key fundamental aspects UNESCO is trying to achieve. I want to tell you that any child who doesn’t understand concepts in their indigenous languages or might find it difficult to understand them in any other languages,” said Mwahunga.
He urged parents and teachers to encourage their children to use their mother tongue language.
“I want to encourage our parents to teach and allow the children to speak their mother tongue languages because our culture is rich and we should be the pride of it,” he said.
According to the UNESCO indigenous language decade 2022 – 2032, a ten-year action plan, at least 40 per cent of the more than 6,700 languages spoken across the world are threatened with extinction due to a lack of speakers.
Mwahunga reaffirmed that there is a gradual remarkable decline in the use of indigenous languages especially those residing in urban centres hardly communicate in their mother tongue.
“In today’s world, you will agree with me that our indigenous languages are facing a greater threat of extinction due to a remarkable decline in usage. Our youth especially those living in town no longer use their mother tongue,” he added.
As Mijikenda and Africans, we should be proud of our indigenous languages, speak them, write about them and even teach other people including foreigners, said Kilifi County Executive Committee member for Education Clara Chonga.
Chonga said the County government is in talks with Pwani University to establish a mother-tongue library centre.
She said once the centre is established the departments of culture and heritage both at the National and County government Will have something to showcase in the future.
“This is a collective issue and that is why we are engaging different educational stakeholders like Pwani University to make sure the journey towards preserving our culture and heritage comes to a success already we are witnessing a gradual decline in the mother tongue usage among our youth,” said Chonga.
The former Technical University of Mombasa dons Humphrey Tsuma call on parents to shun multilingual allegations that it delays the child’s ability to understand a particular language.
Tsuma said multilingual children score much higher in cognitive skills than children who speak only one language.
“Cognitive skills help people learn new things, process information and form logical thoughts from that information,” he said.