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Community leaders call for development of national languages in South Sudan

Community leaders on Thursday called on the government to develop national languages as spelled out in the national language policy.

Banzimi Zimama, the founder of Bera Zande Cultural Centre said during the conference for the community and traditional leaders on transmission of South Sudan languages for the future of generation in Juba that national languages need to be taken seriously to prevent languages from extinction.

“It is so important that we have to take our languages very seriously, we have to learn them, we have to write them and we try to pass them on to the future generation, we have everything contained in our languages,” Zimama told journalists at Crown Hotel.

The conference organized by the ministry of culture, museum and heritage in collaboration with UNESCO is being attended by community and traditional leaders and it is focused on transmission of South Sudan’s languages to the future generation.

Joseph Aban Yuanis, a representative of Chollo community from Tunja in Upper Nile state said that some languages are at risk of extinction, adding that languages must be taught to prevent them from extinction.

“We have learnt that there are languages that are at risk of extinction, we need transmission of languages from generation to generation, we want all languages to be developed and everybody must learn his or her language,” Yuanis said.

“We have known the importance of languages and the importance of transmission of languages, we want languages recorded for the new generation and the parents must be serious to teach the languages to the young generation,” he added.

Moses Mading Marial, the director general for the national and foreign language center in the ministry of general education and instruction said that they have produced teaching materials for five national languages.

“It is passed in the Language Policy Act 2012, that the medium of instruction for children from Primary 1 up to Primary 3 will be in national languages and then from P 4 up to P 8, the medium of instruction will be in English language,” Marial said.

“We have teachers trained, we have translated four subjects and we developed reading materials for P 1 to P 3 in five languages; Bari, Dinka, Nuer, Taposa and Zande and we are going to start with other languages next year,” he added.

Maire John, a professor of linguistics and also the academic registrar for the University of Juba said that languages represent the world view to the community.

“The language that we speak represents our world view, with the death of each language there is a death of that world view, we need language to be taught at universities, it is politically wise to say we speak one language but for a linguist there are very many languages there,” John said.

Julius Banda, the country representative for the United Nations Education, Cultural and Scientific Organization (UNESCO), said that teaching students in a best known language   can build a strong foundation for reading and writing.

“Prioritizing mother tongue based multilingual education instruction from early childhood education throughout primary school, and providing instruction in a language students know best can build strong reading and writing foundation before introducing a second language,” Banda said.

 He added that it’s also critical in not only preserving cultural diversity but also in terms improving learning outcomes.

“When we speak about mother tongue education, we speak about literacy in the language,” Banda said.

South Sudan has 64 ethnic tribes according to the 2011 transitional constitution.

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