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Languages of indigenous peoples to be taught in Guyana schools

Saturday, September 02, 2017

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GEORGETOWN, Guyana (CMC) — The Guyana government says it is moving to have the languages of the indigenous peoples taught in schools here.

“With language, if our indigenous people do not know their language they are not complete. Language is the identity; language helps us to understand the laws of nature which allows us to have an environment; that has a healthy eco system,” said Minister of Indigenous People's Affairs Sydney Allicock.

Speaking at the Dr Desrey Caesar-Fox Memorial Lecture at the Guyana Folk Festival in Brooklyn, New York, Allicok recalled that in 2015 the government announced the re-establishment of the Amerindian Language Project at the University of Guyana. It is now known as the Indigenous Language Project.

“Dr Fox sadly did not finish her journey,” Allicock said, noting that she will be remembered for her invaluable contribution to Guyana's history. She was the minister within the Ministry of Education, for four years (2006-2009) and died in an accident in 2009.

Dr Walter Edwards, the founder of Amerindian Languages Project (ALP), gave a comprehensive overview of the project as well as elements of understanding the Indigenous language as opposed to English.

The project which was founded in 1977 originally had a team of 15 people. Dr Fox was the first Amerindian research assistant recruited and attached to the special project.
Allicock said that “a vast majority of the ALP's work has been erased from the record of the current Amerindian Research unit, which owes its existence to the ALP.”

The memorial lecture discussed the structure of the Akawaio/Arecuna languages; phonological, grammatical, economic activities of the people and the roots of the languages and linguistics professor at Wayne State University, Professor Dr Edwards said he aimed to use “the linguistics information garnered from these descriptions to reveal to teachers of Amerindian children and to educational policy makers the major linguistic and cultural differences between English and these languages”.


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