Every year on the 21st of February we celebrate the more than 7.000 languages spoken in the world. But did you know that in most countries, the vast majority of students are not allowed to use their home languages at school and are sometimes even punished for it? Punishments can take many forms. As recent as 2009, little kids from India were forced to wear a sign around their neck that they would never speak their home language.

Why schools prohibit or punish the use of home languages

There are many reasons why schools prohibit, punish or discourage the use of home languages. Often it is well-intentioned, as teachers believe that this is the best way for children to learn the school language. However, these practices are harmful and there are much better ways this can be achieved. With happier kids, parents and teachers as a result! 

One of the main goals of the Language Friendly School programme is to help ensure that by 2030, the deadline of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, no child is punished for using his or her mother tongue at school.

During our second Language Friendly School webinar, we took a closer look at why Language Friendly Schools commit to encouraging their students in using their home language, and agree never to prohibit or punish them for doing so.

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Yesterday, some 25 participants from the Netherlands, the United States, Canada, Suriname, the UK and Belgium joined our first webinar on the Language Friendly School and learned how the concept was developed, how schools can join and why they should become part of this global network. The examples of language friendly activities shared by the Silver Creek School in Toronto, Canada were truly inspirational. You can find the slides of the webinar below. As extra bonus we’ve included some resources that you can use right away! For more information and to make sure you don’t miss the next webinar: email us at info@rutufoundation.org or subscribe to our newsletter.

A special blog post for International Women’s Day – by Linda Edvardsdottir

In the centre: Besigo, from Progreso, a Ngäbe indigenous community in Costa Rica.

When I was nineteen years old, I volunteered in Progreso, a Ngäbe Bugle Indigenous reservation in Costa Rica. Progreso is a rural community of Indigenous peoples who are spread across a large mountain side close to the Panamanian border. There is one school and education is regarded as very important by the Ngäbe people. To get to school some children must hike in tropical heat for up to two hours. The children often arrive to school exhausted, where they then start studying in Spanish, a secondary language to their own. When it rains, rivers tend to block the roads and the kids have to be sent home early, carrying with them homework in Spanish rather than in their own language.

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