Proud on Eritrean language and culture

- with the Mother Tongue Policy in Eritrea

By Thomas Mountain (*) 26. October 2016

The small East-African state of Eritrea has implemented a Mother Tongue Policy to prevent cultural genocide within its boundaries and for its nine distinguished ethnic groups. These are Tigrinia, Tigre, Afar, Saho, Hidarb, Kunama, Bilien, Rashida and Nara (from whose language the ancient Demotic scripts are being translated).

This is done by educating all children in their communal environments in their mother tongue until literacy at grade 5. By ensuring that also the ethnic minorities learn to read and write in their mother tongue, the Eritrean Government guarantees that their culture survives as well. Without ones original language one cannot live and practice aboriginal culture.

Historically destroying peoples' mother tongue is a means used to carry out a policy of cultural genocide. Thousands of languages and dialects have been oppressed and disappeared during the western colonial and the sub-sequent neo-colonial era lasting until today.

Many of the languages that remain are threatened since the children of these peoples are not literate in their mother tongue. If not addressed such will almost inevitably lead to the loss of their identity, their language and their culture - certainly a globalist goal, but not in the interest of the people.

It hasn't been easy for Eritrea, hammered by droughts, affected by conflicts in the region and economically disadvantaged due to western inflicted sanctions and embargoes. With nine ethnicities and nine languages, some of which have never had a written form, the challenge of implementing the Mother Tongue Policy for all our peoples has been hard work.

But it has been now well over a decade that this policy became the standard practice nationwide. The next generation of Eritrean leaders hailing from the youth of all our nine indigenous peoples living and working together in Eritrea are literate in their mother tongue and will ensure that the values of diverse cultures are kept.

Diversity lived in mutual respect is also an important guarantor for stability.

The Mother Tongue Policy thereby has been proven to be a concept the whole world needs to adopt.

(*) Thomas C. Mountain is an independent journalist in Eritrea, living and reporting from here since 2006. His speeches, interviews and articles can be seen on Facebook at thomascmountain and he can best be reached at thomascmountain at g mail dot com

N.B.: (vf) A further excellent example is the long struggle of the Maori nation in what is called today New Zealand. The aboriginal people insisted on enhanced schools for their children, which not only teach the state-wide imposed school curriculum but also have to teach the vernacular language and indigenous culture.

Interestingly and over many years the children from these communities were often the state-wide top-students in the examinations despite the fact that they had to learn much more than their age-mates in the state-schools.

Also in the new constitution of the Republic of Kenya, for example, the right to speak, use and be educated in ones native language was enshrined. But the Kenyan government has yet to embark on the implementation of a meaningful program to support that constitutional notion and right of all people.

Post-colonial Kenya is a multi-national state that has to cater for over 56 indigenous nations - not to be called "tribes", which is a colonial, imperial and fascist term! Of these five are aboriginal nations. Vibrant Kenya today is home for peoples of even more ethnic groups and has created a society of over 100 distinct ethnicities living together in that country. The earlier policy of pushing all peoples and people of  "Kenya" (a colonial misnomer) to identify themselves solely as "Kenyan" has never worked. While they stand together as Kenyans in the international arena, peace in the country only prevails in zones, where the different ethnicities have maintained mutual respect for each other, and where they can live and celebrate their individual cultures freely.