Locals and leaders from Kisumu County gathered to honor their language and culture as the world marked International Mother Language Day celebrated on February 21 annually.
In Kisumu where a majority of the dwellers are Dholuo speakers, the day offered an opportunity for residents to celebrate the richness and beauty of the native language and its importance as an identity of the Luo community.
The CECM in charge of Sports, Culture, Gender and Youth Affairs, Ms Beatrice Akinyi in her remarks during the first edition of the celebration in the lakeside County called upon the locals to take pride in speaking in their local dialect to preserve and protect the indigenous languages.
“Let us take pride in our mother tongues and share them with the world, for they are an integral part of our identity and heritage,” she stated.
The CECM said that in the wake of modernization and civilization, the young generation has been pushed to abandon their mother tongue.
Against this backdrop, Kisumu County would use the annual International Mother Language Day celebrations to educate the public about the Luo language and culture.
She encouraged linguistic enthusiasts to write books about the community’s historical legends in Luo language to promote the language and enable speakers to read their history in a language they can easily understand.
The lakeside county administration has embarked on a process to establish a law that would set aside a day of speaking in the mother language in the public offices where practical.
The language Bill which is still in the formative stage, if given a nod by the Kisumu County Assembly will also see the Members of the County Assembly (MCAs) debate in luo language in a bid to promote the language as a medium of instruction.
“We are drafting a language bill that seeks to dedicate a day every year for use of mother language to serve the locals in all the County offices to allow our old mothers to understand the governance processes taking place in these offices and enhance service delivery,” stated the county minister.
According to Prof. Owino Rew, former linguistic lecturer at Maseno University, mother language is derived from the fact that during breastfeeding when bonding is created between the mother and the infant, so is the first language that the baby learns from its interaction with its mother.
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) believes that everyone has the right to learn their vernacular language and has therefore since 1953 been promoting multilingual education as an important aspect to improving learning outcomes and socio-emotional development.
However globally, 40% of the population does not have access to an education in a language they understand or speak.
It is in the same regard and purpose to enhance mother language diversity that this year’s theme is ’Multilingual Education, a Necessity to Transform Education’.
“Every language is the embodiment of the cultural beliefs and traditions held by respective tribes. ” Said Prof. Owino, “he who leaves their traditions behind is nothing but a slave to others.”
Speaking during the same function, the Linguistics Professor encouraged the natives to embrace the local dialect through writing and speaking to protect and promote the lakeside culture.
By Robert Ojwang’ and Adoyo Immaculate