International Mother language day as declared by Unesco in 1999 and accepted by the UN in 2002 as part of a larger UN campaign to promote the preservation and conservation of all languages is celebrated on the 21st day of February every year.
This year in Ghana, the day saw a double celebration, a free online class, and a Durbar.
The online class which took place a day before the 21st was in collaboration with the Nayram Language Center and the Ghana Commission for Unesco. The class saw about 50 people join four different classes to learn any of the five local languages Asante Twi, Ewe, Ga, and Nzema, which lasted for an hour and counting depending on how fast learners got what they were taught. However, the sessions began with a welcome message from the Secretary-General of the Ghana Commission for Unesco Mrs. Ama Serwah Nerquaye-Tetteh, who congratulated all learners as their action was a step in preserving their mother tongue and also thanked the Nayram Language center for giving them the opportunity. Again, she urged all to promote and preserve their mother tongue through speaking and writing and any other way to avoid losing it.
The second celebration came off in Tamale the capital city of the Northern Region of Ghana under the auspices of the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture and the Northern Regional Coordinating Council in collaboration with the Bureau of languages, the Ghana Commission of UNESCO, and UNESCO Accra Office at the Office of the Bureau of Ghana Languages.
The program, Christened Alizama 2022 under the customized theme“N zuliya y3ltƆya n-nyƐ m biƐhigu” which translates “My Language, My Life” began with a debate from students of Farida school and Bagabaga COE model school all from Tamale in their native Dagbani language on the topics “the importance of mother tongue in education and the importance of mother language in nation-building”, who were given awards for their participation.
The Director of the Bureau of Languages Mr. William Boateng in his welcome speech encouraged the students and everyone to keep to their mother tongue.
Goodwill messages were given from the special guests beginning with the Ghana Country Representative, Mr. Abdourahmane Diallo, who echoed the message from the Unesco Director-General, Ms. Audrey Azoulay who said that fostering the use of the mother tongue means, precisely, at the same time fostering access to education for all, as well as the dissemination of cultures in all their diversity and the Secretary-General of the Commission Madam Ama Serwah Nerquaye-Tetteh, also stated that the Covid has proved that technology can help solve most of our current educational issues when governed by the key concept of inclusion and equity, she then again added that the time has come for us to defend our original tongues, as no one can do it better than us after which she encouraged stakeholders to help with the implementation of effective learning and teaching of our local languages in all levels of education.
The Northern Regional Minister Hon. Alhassan Shaini Shaibu admonished citizens not to neglect their mother tongue as language is culture and its abandonment is the same as discarding your culture through his keynote address.
The celebration was brought to an end with a book exhibition, as well as poem recitals in the local languages of the people of the north, such as Gonja and Dagbani.
This year’s theme was “Using technology for multilingual learning: Challenges and opportunities” and it focused on how to advance multilingual education based on the potential role of technology and support the development of quality teaching and learning for all.