‘I don’t want them to be afraid like I was’
Grade 2 Tripura School, Khagrachari district
I cried when my mom dropped me off on my first day of school and didn’t stop until my teacher spoke to me in Kok Borok, my mother tongue.
That calmed me down a bit and I managed to pass the time, but the next day, my mom still had to take me to school by force – I didn’t want to go to school because I did not understand the language of instruction, Bangla.
Now I am an MTB-MLE teacher at a pre-school in my village and the children who come to my school from Kok Borok-speaking households no longer have to have the same fears of being stuck in an environment where everything is incomprehensible.
Zabarang Kalyan Samity, a local NGO in Khagrachari supported by Save the Children established the MTB-MLE school in 2007. When I was recruited as a teacher then, I could not read and write, only speak, but learned to do both through the training.
Now that I can read in my mother tongue, I have grown to appreciate how much we are losing our culture and traditions through lack of use and practice, and I’ve also learned more about other ethnic groups, like the Marma, Chakma, Garo etc. This awareness is growing among parents and villagers as well.
MTB-MLE is a very supportive approach for children of different ethnic minorities and I believe it’s essential to safeguarding the cultural diversity of these communities in the future.
One of the student success stories that stands out to me goes back to an art competition we had in my district in 2009 to commemorate International Mother Language Day. The winner of that competition went out to achieve perfect grades in primary school and is now doing very well at the Khagrachari government high school. The head of his primary school remarked at the excellent education progress being made by those educated in MTB-MLE.
MTB-MLE training has given me many important tools in teaching, such as the importance of lesson plan preparation, incorporating fun elements like storytelling and singing, reciting rhymes in the mother tongue, and others.
To those who say that MTB-MLE is not in the best interests of children’s futures because it limits them, I would say it does the opposite. Children feel comfortable in their mother tongue and this enables them to be confident and spontaneous in the classroom.
Rather than seeming alien and strange, as my early school days did to me, MTB-MLE offers a comfortable base from which children can move on to Bangla, and from Bangla on to other languages.
Photo courtesy of Meherun Nahar Shapna, Project Director, Shishur Khamatayan, MLE, Save the Children in Bangladesh.