By Juldeh Njie
The Gambia National Commission for UNESCO in collaboration with UNESCO Dakar regional office has recently held a four-day workshop for the harmonization of cross border languages, Serer and Manjago, at the Gambia Teacher’s Union conference hall in Kanifing.
The UNESCO-funded training is aimed at looking at the autography spellings and alphabets of the two languages and to inculcate it in the school system.
Saipy Sy from the regional office in Dakar expressed delight for partaking in the event, saying the activity is part of UNESCO’s contribution in attaining the SDGs of national language and to underline the importance of mother tongue for quality education and linguistic diversity in Africa.
Sy said: “The SDG form of the 2030 agenda focuses on quality education and national learning for all to enable both men and women to acquire knowledge, skills and value. This is important especially for women and girls as well as minorities in rural population.”
This, he said, reflects in UNESCO education 2030 frame work to implement the 2030 agenda which encourages full respect for the use of mother language in teaching and learning.
Sy noted that the importance of the initiative in the attainment of the 2030 agenda and 2063 of the African Union, which can build a foundation for the empowerment of women and men in their societies.
“We must recognize and nurture this power in order to not to leave anyone behind to craft a more just and successful future for all,” he added.
He expressed optimism that the workshop will harmonize the framework for both countries in terms of reading and writing and that both formal and informal strategies will be developed.
Permanent Secretary, basic education ministry, said research has shown that the use of national languages in the early grades actually enhances performance of students.
Muhammed Jallow reassured UNESCO of his office’s commitment to working with them to attain the development goals.
“The languages are the same; what is different is the vocabulary depending on your profession and the environment. It’s important that we realize we are the same and coming together is important,” PS Jallow added.
He challenged the group to translate their constitution into local languages to enhance better understanding.
Lamin Jarjue of NAMCOM said the two countries are inseparable and have been in existence before colonial times. He revealed that colonialists drew the boundaries but the same people are in both countries.
Jarju said: “Calling for the harmonization of the national languages of Serer and Manjago in the Gambia, I think we are on track and it should go for all the other languages.”
Demba Mendy, an expert in Manjago, said they are sharing ideas and experiences in order to benefit both countries.
Momodou Joof, an expert in Serer, said they intend to push Gambia to the level of Senegal where national languages are recognized and used.
They both promised to do their utmost in making sure that the objective of the training is realized.
John Bass, a participant, welcomes the initiative, adding that teaching Manjago is timely because some settlements in the country are dominated by the tribe.
“This workshop is a great step in actually achieving the dreams of teaching Manjago in schools and their coming here will help us succeed in all that we are planning to do. I expect to build my capacity in terms of the teaching of the language, harmonizing the autography for better use of the local languages,” he said.