The School of Languages, on Tuesday, 21st February 2023, held a one-day symposium commemorating UNESCO’s International Mother Language Day, an annual celebration that falls on the 21st of February every year. This year’s event was hosted by the School of Languages in collaboration with the Ghana Commission for UNESCO under the theme “Mother Tongue for National Development”, with detailed academic presentations from top scholars and cultural experts in the field of indigenous Ghanaian languages. Delivering her opening remarks, Prof. Helen Yitah, Dean of the School of Languages, welcomed all guests and participants to the event. In her speech, she stated that International Mother Language Day was part of a broader initiative to promote the preservation and protection of all mother languages used by different people in all parts of the world. As a result, the School of Languages has joined institutions worldwide to celebrate the Day to contribute to the realisation of the United Nations’ 2019 Resolution of 2022-2032 as the Decade of Indigenous Languages. According to her, the move was timely, given the high energy generated globally around indigenous languages. The Dean further communicated the mother tongue's significance in education and urged all stakeholders to support the promotion and protection of indigenous languages for future generations.
Prof. Helen Yitah, Dean, School of Languages
In his welcome address, Prof. Daniel Frimpong Ofori, Provost of the College of Humanities, expressed his delight at UNESCO commemorating International Mother Language Day on the UG campus. He warmly welcomed all guests and participants to the event and, on behalf of the College of Humanities, commended the School of Languages and the Ghana Commission for UNESCO for the initiative, which he mentioned is in line with the academic mandate of the School of Languages. Commenting on the theme, the Provost stated that the projection, promotion and preservation of mother languages enhances multilingualism and cultural diversity for sustainable development and peaceful coexistence. Prof. Ofori applauded the School of Languages for leading in celebrating this important day and hailed the symposium as a welcome addition to the University of Ghana’s calendar of activities, notably this year’s, which marks the University’s 75th Anniversary celebration. He hoped that the thought-provoking discussions would bring about further deliberations that would positively shape language and educational policies, which would, in turn, promote national development.
Concluding his address, Prof. Daniel Frimpong Ofori expressed his pleasure at the collaboration between the School of Languages and the Ghana Commission for UNESCO and especially commended the Dean of the School of Languages and the planning committee, as well as all stakeholders and institutions who supported in organising the event.
Prof. Daniel Frimpong Ofori, Provost, College of Humanities delivering the welcome address.
The Communications and Information Officer at the Ghana Commission for UNESCO, Ms. Agyekum Nsuroma, delivered a speech on behalf of the Secretary-General. She expressed the Commission’s honour to mark the Day in collaboration with the School of Languages at the University of Ghana. She reiterated UNESCO’s advocacy for multilingual education and stated that UNESCO’s theme for this year’s celebration is “Multilingual Education: A Necessity to Transform Education”. She bemoaned the negative impact of institutional monolingualism in educational institutions globally, stating the adverse effect of the misconceptions surrounding using mother languages for classroom instruction in many African schools. She mentioned that there is a limitation in teaching and learning in institutions where English or French are the only acceptable languages of instruction.
However, Ms. Agyekum Nsuroma applauded the School of Languages for taking a keen interest in promoting and preserving the mother tongue, stating that this will not only help in the intellectual development of children but also promote communication with culture.
Ms. Agyekum Nsuroma, Communications and Information Officer, Ghana Commission for UNESCO
Presenting on the topic, “Strategies for the Promotion of the Mother Tongue for National Development”, Prof. Adams Bodomo, a Professor of African Studies at the University of Vienna and a visiting scholar at the University of Ghana, outlined some thought-provoking steps that can be taken in the quest to promote the mother tongue. Prof. Bodomo spoke on including as many mother languages as possible in the education of the younger generation and called on central governments in Africa to make educational policies that will prioritise using many mother languages for classroom instruction. He further called on Ghanaians to take an interest in learning their languages and stressed that as much as possible, the private sector must fund programmes geared towards promoting the mother languages in Ghana.
Prof. Adams Bodomo, Professor of African Studies, University of Vienna
Prof. Samuel Awinkene Atintono of the University of Education, Winneba and Principal of the Accra College of Education also spoke on the topic, “Deploying the Mother Tongue for Effective Teaching and Learning in Multilingual Classrooms: Some Perspectives from the Field”. He presented data from research he conducted in some primary schools in urban communities to demonstrate the reality of using mother languages at the basic level of education in Ghana. Prof. Atintono corroborated the views of Prof. Bodomo in the call to prioritise the use of the mother tongue in educating the young Ghanaian in order to preserve the local languages and ensure multilingualism.
Prof. Samuel Awinkene Atintono, University of Education, Winneba; Principal, Accra College of Education
After the presentations by the two speakers, Dr. Mercy Akrofi Ansah of the Institute of African Studies, University of Ghana and Prof. Samuel Issah, the Dean of the Faculty of Languages, University of Education - Ajumako Campus, respectively took turns to discuss the earlier presentations. The two discussants unanimously backed the calls for the inclusiveness of as many local languages as possible in the education of young Ghanaians, after which participants were allowed to make contributions and share insights on the various issues discussed. Poetry recitals were also performed by Prof. Kofi Anyidoho and Dr. Sarah Dogbadzi to commemorate the occasion. The first two poems titled, “Akorfa” and “Dada” were presented in the Ewe and English languages respectively, with the last poem titled “Agala”, being presented in the Ewe Language only. In her closing remarks, the Dean of the School of Languages, Prof. Helen Yitah, thanked the speakers, the guests and the sponsors for making the symposium a success. She also expressed her appreciation to the Ghana Commission for UNESCO for the partnership and appealed for more of such collaborations in the future.
Dr. Mercy Akrofi Ansah, Institute of African Studies, College of Humanities, University of Ghana
Present at the event were Prof. Ildiko Csajbok-Twerefou, Head, Department of Modern Languages, Prof. Gladys Ansah, Head, Department of English, Prof. Josephine Dzahene-Quarshie of the Department of Modern Languages and Prof. Kofi Agyekum, Department of Linguistics. Also present were staff from the Ghana Commission for UNESCO, Faculty from the School of Languages, and students of the University of Ghana and the Accra College of Education. The symposium was held at the Maison Française Conference Facility at the University of Ghana.
A cross section of participants at the event