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Kurdish Children in the UK Cannot Learn ‎their Mother Tongue

 

Tens of thousands of Kurdish children in the Britain cannot find a summer school to learn their mother tongue. Critics say the Kurdish authorities should work wiht Kurds in diaspora to find a way to the problem.

Kurdish language is at risk not only in the UK which tens of thousands of Kurds live, but also in the Kurdish territories in the Middle East where multiple countries have repressed the language for centuries.

Apart from pressure of the regimes in the region, Kurdish language has its own challenges, such as multiple different dialects and written scripts. The three main Kurdish dialects are: Sorani (Arabic script), Kurmanci (Latini Script) and Southern Kurdish (two different scripts). These dialect differences are the biggest challenge to establish a Kurdish standard language with stability for decades.

The challenges are not narrowed only at home, but also make serious problems for Kurds in diaspora.

Chro Ahmad is a 32-years old mother of three sons in Derby; she voiced her concern and said that she is teaching her sons Kurdish language due to lack of Kurdish schools in the city. She said it is very difficult for her sons to learn how to read and write in Kurdish while they are already registered at public schools and have plenty of daily homework. Nevertheless, she stated that she has failed in teaching her eldest son, who is now 11, to write and read in Kurdish language.

There are some schools in the UK where Kurdish teachers deliver Kurdish teaching lessons but only three hours per week. There is no official data about the number of those schools, but Kurdistan Regional Government’s representative in the UK believes that there are Kurdish schools in almost all of the UK cities; these schools have been voluntarily established by Kurdish residents mainly teachers.

“We highly appreciate what they do, especially the teachers who are teaching our kids with no fee. At the same time the schools can get fund and grants from the councils and educational bodies”. KRG’s representative statement read.

 

Shawbo Mohammad, a 43-year old woman who is the director of KANGA organization (Kurdish Association for New Generations/Abroad) stated that their organization covers financial costs of three schools in the UK; (Kobani Kurdish School in North London), (Ameen Baldar in Coydon) and (Nali School in Leicester). Currently they have 170 students and eight teachers. The students receive Kurdish learning lessons once a week. Every student pays only 50£ per annum.

Ms. Shawbo claims that Kurdistan Regional Government does not provide assistance for their organization and it’s obvious to everyone that establishing a Kurdish school in the UK is not an easy process.

The director of KANGA is not optimistic about the future of Kurdish language among UK Kurdish children. She admitted there is a big fear that Kurdish language may extinct in the future. “KRG must do something about this issue, especially by financially supporting the schools because the schools are in danger of closing due to lack of fund and teachers”.

Tara Dizayee, a 43-years old teacher, who has been teaching Kurdish language voluntarily at some schools of London since 2004, said as the largest stateless ethnic group in the world, Kurds are subject to forced assimilation and ethnic cleansing campaigns in their homeland. “Those in diaspora who are lucky enough to have escaped these brutal regimes, now fear that a large aspect of their identity, their mother tongue, is at risk of being forgotten”.

Ms. Tara’ experience of teaching at a Kurdish school in the UK has been nothing short of pleasant and rewarding: “My niece, nephews and children have all attended Kurdish school in the UK and have not only been equipped with the knowledge to read and write Kurdish but has also enhanced skills that children usually learn naturally at home, like speaking and understanding”.

Ms. Tara believes that KRG has many problems of its own, with limited resources. So, it is down to Kurds in diaspora to accumulate the wealth to uphold these community language schools.

The Kurdish schools are opened mostly on Saturdays or Sundays. They register students aged 4 to 18. Students receive Kurdish learning lesson, Mathematics in Kurdish and a few lessons on music and art.

Halabja Kurdish School was a successful example of Kurdish schools in the UK. It was a great home for hundreds of Kurdish children to learn their mother tongue during the past two decades but now the school is closed.

Ms. Tara said “my children and my nieces and nephews can read and write in Kurdish fluently. They were educated at Halabja School. My niece who is now 23; she was only 5 when she first attended Kurdish school and graduated at 18. Now she is working as a volunteer Kurdish language teacher helping children to read and write in Kurdish. These children were taught Kurdish through an educational system with qualified native Kurdish speakers”.

Yet, the problem is not only about lack of schools. Some parents speak English with their kids at home because they believe it would accelerate learning process of English-speaking ability.

Professor Hazhar Rahimi at Faculty of Arts-Kurdish School at University of Soran said attempting to weaken and abolishing Kurdish Language has continued throughout history. Although the language survived all the threats, but the pressures such as banning Kurdish at schools in Turkey, Iran, Syria and Iraq makes it a very weak language in the global age.

Rahimi outlined some threats that still put Kurdish language at risk:

  • Lack of a standard Kurdish language and a kind of prejudice among its dialect speakers has made the condition of having a standard language very challenging.
  • Lack of a clear policy towards Kurdish language and its role in developing identity and personality of Kurds as an ethnic group.
  • Continued depressions from the regimes in the Middle East, make Kurdish a weak language which cannot used in the global sphere, mainly because it is a weak language in terms of resources and culture.
  • The weakness of the language makes the Kurds inside and outside Kurdistan prefer to learn other languages rather than their mother tongue, because the Kurdish language cannot be used in the new global market.
Photo credit: KANGA Facebook Page

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