BHUBANESWAR: Even as the Odisha Government pushes its multilingual education (MLE) programme to improve learning among students in tribal regions, dearth of teachers having grasp over a range of tribal languages has emerged as a major challenge.
To tide over the crisis, Scheduled Tribe and Scheduled Caste Development Department is trying to use communicative or dominant languages in the region to work as a bridge between the students and teachers.
Though major objective of MLE is to mainstream tribal students to Odia using their mother tongue in the elementary stages and improve their learning, there is a lack of adequate teachers who are conversant with a variety of languages.
“Residential schools run by the Department draw students from different districts unlike schools under School and Mass Education Department which cater to their catchment areas only. So you have students from Gadaba, Bonda, Juang, Kissan and Oram tribes in one school. It is difficult to find teachers who are conversant in all the languages,” said an official of the Department.
Since languages such as Shadri, Desia, Relly and Koshli-Sambalpuri are widely used across vast regions, the Academy of Tribal Languages and Culture (ATLC), a body under the Department, has identified zones basing on their usage.
In the residential schools located in these zones, these languages are promoted so that teachers find it easy to communicate and impart learning to the students.
Nearly 98 per cent of the third generation Gadabas cannot speak their mother tongue, rather they are fluent in Desia.
A similar phenomenon is noticed among Parenga tribe in Nandapur block of Koraput.
“That is why teachers are asked to increasingly use such communicative languages so that interactive learning takes place and the students benefit the most. Gradually, the transition to Odia medium becomes smooth too,” says Dr P Patel, a senior researcher of ATLC.
Even as the Government tries to mainstream the tribal students, rapid urbanisation and development intervention have contributed to tribal languages fading away in absence of usage by the younger generation.
To keep their mother tongue alive, the State Government is trying to build up the language resources.
Books on grammar and texts of 22 tribal languages have been created and are being circulated among the libraries of residential schools.
Patel said use of tribal languages is also being promoted in bal-wadis.