The International Mother Language Day is observed on February 21. It was in the year 1999, that the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) presented the topic of mother language and the issues that the people in Bangladesh faced (then Pakistan) at the UN General Conference, and since after the year 2000, this day has been observed as International Mother Language Day across the globe.
The idea to celebrate this day was initiated by Bangladesh, and it so happened, after a long period of struggle.
The theme for the year 2021 is, “Fostering multilingualism for inclusion in education and society”.
According to the message of the Director-General of UNESCO, Audrey Azoulay, “40% of the world’s inhabitants do not have access to education in the language they speak or understand best, it hinders their learning, as well as their access to heritage and cultural expressions. This year, special attention is being paid to multilingual education from early childhood, so that for children, their mother tongue is always an asset.”
History and significance
In the year 1952, Bangladesh (then Pakistan) saw a massive language movement in Dhaka as the people stood up for their rights.
They started the large movement because, after the independence, the government of Pakistan declared that Urdu will be the national language. Their decision did not go down well with the people who were living in East Pakistan as their mother language was Bangla.
They raised their voice and asked for acceptance of the Bangla language as one of the official languages. The college students of Dhaka first protested in the year 1952, and it was in the year 1956 that the Pakistan government agreed to make Bangla one of the official languages.
After the long struggle, on February 29, 1956, Bengali was made the second official language of Pakistan. In the year 1971, Bangladesh became a free country, and the language Bengali also became its official language.