Unquestionably, having the mother tongue as the language of instruction in school is very important for children’s overall development as it connects them to their understanding of self, cultivates self-respect, and ensures better cognitive development. In learning to express themselves in their mother tongue well, not only do young people they have a better chance at learning other languages, but also at being successful participants in society and the job market.
However, despite the overwhelming evidence of the value and benefits of education in the mother tongue, most countries do not invest in it. Therefore, on the 1stof January 2016, a new global development agenda came into effect whereby 193 world leaders pledged to a set of goals which will ‘leave no-one behind’. Respect for the use of mother tongue language is imperative if the world is to deliver on its promise of inclusive, quality education for all by 2030. As such, governments need to set about enacting policies that recognise mother tongue learning, and to finance their implementation –a task which is both costly and complex as there is need for trained teachers, teachers who can teach in more than one language, and language materials in a language that students can understand. Even though the social, political and economic cost of maintaining the order as it is cannot be ignored, this Mother Language Day provides us with an opportunity to focus on the importance of multilingualism and mother tongue learning “for quality education, for fulfilling the potential of all learners, and for the success of the new global development agenda”.