Speakers at a national seminar Wednesday underlined the need for launching primary education for indigenous children in their mother tongue to prevent their high dropout rate at early primary level and meet the target to ensure basic education for all by the year 2015.
Dropout rate among indigenous students at early primary level is more than 33 per cent as they failed to understand and write Bangla and fear to attend classes, mentioned at the concluding session of a two-day seminar on "The Indigenous Child and the State of Primary Education: Findings from the ICEF Community Based Research."
CARE Bangladesh, Indigenous Children's Education Forum (ICEF), Commonwealth Education Fund (CEF) and USAID jointly organised the seminar in the city's BRAC Inn where representatives from 73 NGOs working on indigenous children's education rights took part, shared experiences and put forward recommendations to address the problem.
There are more than 500,000 indigenous children in 45 ethnic communities in Bangladesh, who have been largely denied the opportunities to participate in the regular national education system, says speakers in the seminar.
The speakers observed educational issues of access, quality, and inclusion for minorities often manifest themselves in the lack of cultural relevancy of the national curriculum, the need to respect language diversity, and the vulnerability of trained and qualified teachers from among ethnic communities as well as rigidity in stipend providing criteria and geographical location.
In the concluding session ICEF's report titled "Many Languages, Once Voice" was launched by two indigenous college teachers- Anana Chien Marandi and SC Albert Soren. Assistant Coordinator of CARE's Education Program Reza Mahmud Al Huda unveiled the report for general discussion.
The report, based on research, showed that 95 per cent parents from indigenous communities prefer their children's education in Bangla medium so that they can cope with the outside situation and lead a better life. Besides, 65 per cent parents opined education for their children in their own languages side by side Bangla.
Representatives from donor agencies including UNDP, UNICEF and Save the Children UK, among others, attended the seminar.