How best can indigenous language literacy be promoted in Ghana?

UNP L.jpeg File photo

Mon, 4 Apr 2022 Source: Isaac Ato Mensah

The United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Languages (UNPFIL) has noted that 96 percent of the earth’s approximately 6700 languages are spoken by only three percent of the world’s population.

This means that some 370 million people in over 90 countries who identify with about 6000 languages have their languages and culture marginalized.

Further, the Forum has assessed that “one indigenous language dies every two weeks”.

Our client, a private organisation, has passionate solutions for promoting indigenous languages through formal education, but without requiring approval from any government institution.

“Once you bring any government institution in, then they will slow down our momentum and possibly kill the idea,” OSQ, representing the client, told us at a meeting recently in Accra to pick our thoughts on the venture. “In 20 years time, we hope to see this nation develop when the mass of our people are literate in our indigenous languages and can think and solve problems through that medium.”

This is a tall order, but certainly surmountable with collaborations across broad sectors of the society, wide consultation, paid volunteers, and in all likelihood commercialisation of various aspects of the projects/programme.

“There is a substantial body of research illustrating the benefits to Indigenous learners of the interdependence between bilingual education, the inclusion of Indigenous [knowledge], cultural context, and educational attainment,” wrote Wodon and Cosentino in an article published 7 August 2019 on blogs.worldbank.org.

Bourdieu's Cultural Capital Theory and Yosso's Cultural Wealth Model have for some time now been acknowledged in many Western formal education environments, namely, that cultural wealth/cultural capital contributes substantially to wealth creation for the individual/community with implications for health and wellbeing, including coping with traumatic life events.

The thrust of our client’s projects however is on literacy- the reading and writing of the indigenous language - plus the ability to translate and transliterate them to address the current developmental needs of the Ghanaian society.

Therefore, the projects immediately offer employment for persons who are literate in Ghanaian indigenous languages. The bigger challenge now is to find a cohort of consultants who will review and fact check content which will run across all disciplines.

“The credibility of the projects/programme must be above board,” the writersghana.com team told the client who showed full appreciation. “They must meet the highest international best practice standards of the scientific method as a way of life.”

There are presently no well-laid-out project management plans for the project; everything is still in the conceptualisation stages with no assurance of success.

The UNPFIL recommends that states should 1) “recognize the linguistic rights of indigenous peoples and should develop language policies to promote and protect indigenous languages, including the provision of quality education in indigenous mother tongues; 2) “provide sustainable and long-term funding for language revitalization initiatives and organizations designed and delivered by and for indigenous peoples; 3) “provide intercultural education for all, not only for indigenous children, thereby ensuring that non-indigenous peoples learn indigenous languages and cultures where appropriate; and 4) “promote job creation for speakers of indigenous languages.”

However, in this backward and annoying country, it is futile waiting on the Government of Ghana and paid civil/public servants to take any meaningful initiatives where there are no direct personal incentives to the employees.

Therefore with the passion for promoting cultural wealth/cultural capital to benefit individuals/communities, our client soldiers on into the deep blue ocean on a wing and a prayer, with faith in serendipity.

The science behind literacy in the indigenous languages for early learners is already well established.

The search is on; we do not know it all; please feel free to contact us to discuss possible collaborations.

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Writers and Shakespeares Ghana Limited exist to be a moral and intellectual guide to the best practice of PR and integrated communications around the world, beginning with Ghana.

Columnist: Isaac Ato Mensah