Govt mulls adding Indigenous languages to school curriculum
Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs Minister Sydney Allicock said President David Granger has requested that the languages of the Indigenous peoples of Guyana be taught in schools.
The Minister made this statement on Thursday last, during the Dr Desrey Caesar-
Fox Memorial Lecture at the Guyana Folk Festival in Brooklyn, New York. He explained: “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 ecosystem.”
The lecture, which was held at the St Stephen’s Lutheran Church in Brooklyn, had an impressive turnout as Dr Walter Edwards, the founder of Amerindian Languages Project (ALP), gave a comprehensive overview on the project, elements of understanding Indigenous languages as opposed to English, and Dr Fox’s vital role in what is known today as the “Indigenous Languages Project” at the University of Guyana.
The project, which was founded in 1977, originally had a team of 15 persons. Dr Fox was the first Amerindian research assistant recruited and attached to the special project. Fox was born January 2, 1955 in Waramadong, an Akawaio village. She grew up trilingual – speaking Akawaio, Arecuna, and English. Dr Edwards remarked that her contribution was “superb”.
He explained 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”.
According to the Department of Public Information, the memorial lecture discussed
the structure of the Akawaio/Arecuna languages – phonological, grammatical; economic activities of the people and the roots of the languages.
Dr Edwards, now a Linguistics Professor at Wayne State University, said he aimed to use “the linguistics information garnered from these descriptions to reveal to teachers of Amerindian children and to educational policymakers the major linguistic and cultural differences between English and these languages”.
In 2015, the Government announced the re-establishment of the ALP at University of Guyana.
“Dr Fox sadly did not finish her journey,” Minister Allicock said, noting that she would be remembered for her invaluable contribution to Guyana’s history. She was the Minister within the Education Ministry, for four years (2006-2009) and died in an accident in 2009.
The Government of Guyana has renamed the Waramadong Secondary in the Upper Mazaruni the Desrey Caesar-Fox Secondary School in honour of Dr Fox.