Noamundi (West Singhbhum): The tribal land of Noamundi has a rich legacy of indigenous languages and scripts such as Ho, Santhali and Mundari among others.
With the growing penetration of Hindi and English as commonly spoken languages, tribal communities have been apprehensive that the extinction of their languages would sound the death knell for their distinct ethnic identities.
In an attempt to preserve tribal languages for the future generations, Tata Steel Foundation in collaboration with Adivasi Ho Samaj Mahasabha and Noamundi Adivasi Association have been running 27 training centres in and around Noamundi and have trained more than 1000 students since 2015.
Since the inception of the training programme, the interest to study indigenous languages and to pass on the knowledge to successive generations has remarkably increased in the region. Customised learning modules for easy understanding have been developed by language experts from Pt. Raghunath Murmu Academy along with several academicians and researchers.
This initiative, apart from working towards preserving the tribal dialects, has also helped in generating livelihood opportunities for teachers. The project has so far produced over 31 teachers from within the community.
Sunita Buriuly, who has been a language teacher since the last five years, says,The adoption of more widely spoken competitors, such as Hindi and English, has hastened the disappearance of rare dialects. It is high time we take steps towards its preservation.”
A gold medalist, she is now an assistant lecturer in the Department of Tribal and Regional Language of Kolhan University, Chaibasa.
The project has injected a sense of pride among the locals from tribal communities. Apart from focussing on tribal languages, the programme has also proved to be a catalyst for preserving other aspects of the tribal heritage that includes their lifestyle, clothing, music, games and performing arts. The project has the ultimate objective of leveraging knowledge of tribal languages as a means to foster a positive and constructive ecosystem of tribal identity.
“The current ambition is to embed tribal languages into the syllabus and pedagogy of local public schools by creating a demand from communities as well as an ecosystem of teachers and learning material for this purpose,” says Jiren Topno, Head (Tribal Culture), Tata Steel.