PM Hasina for research to preserve, revitalise, develop mother languages

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina addresses the inaugural ceremony of the four-day programme marking the International Mother Language Day-2023 at International Mother Language Institute (IMLI) auditorium, Dhaka, on 21 February 2023

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Tuesday laid emphasis on the necessity of research on languages, saying that International Mother Language Institute (IMLI) has the responsibility to preserve all the languages existing in the world.

“I think IMLI has the responsibility to preserve all the languages prevailing in the world as well as conduct research on those languages and know their history. I think it can be done,” she said.

The prime minister said this while addressing the inaugural ceremony of the four-day programme marking the International Mother Language Day-2023 at International Mother Language Institute (IMLI) auditorium here as chief guest.

Mentioning that fellowship is needed to be introduced in the IMLI for researchers, she said “I will arrange the fund (for introducing fellowship) if it is required.”

“I want that IMLI to put emphasis on the research as attaining excellence is not possible without it,” she said, stressing the need for research to preserve, revitalize and develop the mother languages of the world.

“Many languages in different countries are getting lost… We want the engendered languages of the world to be preserved here and research to be conducted on those. We’re giving the utmost importance to research. I want the International Mother Language Institute to make a huge contribution to preserve the languages,” she added.

Sheikh Hasina said today Bangladesh has attained food autarky due to research. “Now research is extensively needed in different sectors, including science and health,” she said.

In this context, she said that her government provides fellowship and stipends to 24 million students in Bangladesh and free textbooks to the school students.

She mentioned that her government had raised the literacy rate to 65.5 per cent from only 45 per cent during the 1996-2001 tenure and got an award from UNESCO for this achievement. Then her government formed a fund with the award money to provide stipend for higher education, she said.

“After returning to power in 2009, now we’ve raised the literacy rate to 75.2 per cent. So, we are advancing,” she added.

The prime minister recalled the contribution of Bangladesh’s founding father Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman to the Language Movement.

In the event, Sheikh Hasina, also chief patron of the IMLI, handed over the international mother language national awards and the international mother language international awards to four recipients.

Habibur Rahman and Ranjit Singha were given the national awards, while Mahendra Kumar Mishra and Mother Language Lovers of World Society, Vancouver, Canada were conferred with the international awards in recognition of their extraordinary contribution to the preservation, revitalization and development of mother languages.

President of the Mother Language Lovers of World Society, Md. Aminul Islam, on behalf of the Society, received the award.

With Education Minister Dipu Moni, MP, in the chair, Secondary and Higher Education Division secretary Suleman Khan delivered welcome address.

Deputy Minister for Education Mohibul Hassan Chowdhoury, MP, and in-charge of UNESCO Dhaka Office Susan Maree Vize also spoke.

Former vice-chancellor of Rabindra Bharati University professor Pabitra Sarker made a keynote presentation focusing on “the necessity of multilingual education in the multilingual world”, while IMLI director general professor Hakim Arif gave vote of thanks.

At the outset of the function, one-minute silence was observed in memory of the language movement heroes for their sacrifices.

A video documentary titled “Bangabandhu and Language Movement” was screened followed by song of Ekushey and the National Anthem.

Children from different countries, including Bangladesh, India, Australia, Algeria, Japan, China, Russia and France, greeted the Prime Minister in their own mother languages on the occasion of the International Mother Language Day.

The prime minister said the country’s children should learn one or two foreign languages alongside learning their own mother language.

Mentioning that it is true English has become the dominant medium of international communication now, she said, “Alongside this, I think it is very essential to learn own language. Our children can learn one or two other languages alongside their own mother language.”

Sheikh Hasina said that she laid the foundation stone of this International Mother Language Institute during the visit of the then UN secretary general Kofi Annan in 2001, but the subsequent government (BNP-Jamaat government) stopped its work.

She, however, thanked the 2001-2006 (BNP-Jamaat) government for stopping the work, saying that otherwise her government didn’t get the scope to develop this institute as per her design.

“From the one perspective, they (BNP-Jamaat government) did a good job. I would like to thank them as I could develop this institute as per my choice after coming in power for the second term. So, I thank them for stopping it,” she added.

In her speech, the prime minister also mentioned that her government’s effort to provide home and land to all homeless and landless people, including different backward groups of people such as Mantra, Bede, Hijra (third gender) etc. alongside giving the scope of livelihood.

“When they are getting home, they are educating their children, which is a good symbol as we want our country to move forward in such a way,” she added.

She said the government has also been setting up primary schools in the areas where there were no schools, while universities in each district.