The Census report 2011 reveals a sharp decline in Odia speaking community within a time span of 40 years. According to the report, only 3.10% people speak Odia language.
There are 62 indigenous tribal communities and 13 primitive tribes residing in Odisha, which shows the diversity of language present in the state. However, like Odia, these regional or tribal languages have shown a downfall during these years.
“The women of our tribe contribute a handful of rice to ensure that our language is preserved,” says a woman belonging to the Saura tribe of Rayagada district of Odisha. In order to preserve the Sora dialect, these community people are running 30 informal schools around the district.
Another tribe of Sundargarh district, the Oraon tribe, make sure that they interact with the younger people of their community in their Kurux language.
“Communities are highly apprehensive that the dialects will get extinct, which will also erase their ethnic identities,” says Academy of Tribal Languages and Culture, Bhubaneswar.
The organization also says, “Odia, English and Hindi are the primary languages that are promoted by the state, and it is often difficult for a tribal student to understand it proficiently. So, these kids may be left behind in the race.”
The tribal dialects of Odisha that have their respective scripts are Munda, Koya, Bhumija, Oraon and Khadia.
The Odisha government adopted the Multi-Lingual Education programme in 2016, where the tribal dialect will be used as the medium of instruction during the primary education.
This programme focused on 24 tribal languages. However, only 21 languages have been scripted till date.
“The New National Education Policy 2020 brings mother tongue education to the fore. It has also been recommended by the Right to Education Act Sec 29(2)(f),” says Job Zachariah, Consultant, UNICEF, Jharkhand.
“Wherever possible the medium of instruction in schools until Grade V – preferably until Grade VIII – should be the mother tongue or the local or regional language.
All efforts will be made early on to ensure that any gaps that exist between the language spoken by the child and the medium of teaching are bridged,” the NEP says.