By Yunus S Saliu
National Centre for Arts and Culture (NCAC), in collaboration with the Academy of African Languages of the African Union (ACALAN), on Wednesday, 30th August 2023, conducted a daylong sensitization forum on National Language Policy and Language Development.
The sensitization forum was held at the Gambia Tourism and Hospitality Institute (GTHI), Post Office Road, Kanifing,
The one-day event was an awareness creation session on the proposed National Language Policy and Language Development for The Gambia and was a logical step towards achieving a robust and responsive Policy Document on the use, valorization, and preservation of the country’s national languages.
Elaborating on the process, Hassoum Ceesay, Director General of the National Center for Arts and Culture (NCAC) welcomed and thanked the participants for honoring the invitation to participate in the language and policy development process, which he described as “not an easy task.”
He acknowledged the presence of some of the Gambia senior citizens at the event saying their presence and other relevant stakeholders was a sign of great importance attached to the process of developing a national language and policy document.
He disclosed that in April 2023, the cabinet designated NCAC as the National Structure for National Languages to work with the Academy of African Languages of the African Union known as ACALAN towards the elaboration of a National Language Policy, and “In July 2023, the NCAC and ACALAN signed a contract for the activities leading to a National Policy Document within one year.”
A policy on National Languages, he stated, is quite a task “but I don’t want to leave anybody in doubt as this session is just the baby step in what is going to be a very long protracted journey towards elaborating the policy that we want.”
“But in our quiet moment we say ‘yes’ we can do it with the network of people we are having as stakeholders while also the ACALAN is convinced that we can lead the process to its successful and logical end,” he assured of their readiness.
DG Ceesay added that the history of language is quite torching if not sensitive therefore “everybody is a stakeholder whether you are at home in The Gambia or away, this is one of the reasons that made language policy to be different from other policies.”
He, therefore, commended the Ministry of Tourism and Culture for its support and as well ACALAN for funding the entire project.
As the forum continued, Hassoum Ceesay made a comprehensive presentation on the Historical Antecedents for a National Languages Policy and the stakeholders. At the same time, Dr. Cherno O Barry, VC of IOU, Banjul presented on Higher Education and Search for a National Languages Policy, Modou Lamin Age-Al-Musaf Sowe, an author submitted on Gambian Writers, Literature and Youth and the Quest for a National Languages Policy; and Dr. Ousman Mamakeh Bojang presentation was on the Role of Communities and Local History in Search for a National Language Policy, and Dr. Saiba Suso of the University of The Gambia made a presentation on Community Development Issues and the Search for a National Languages Policy.
Lamin Jarjou of NATCOM-UNESCO The Gambia moderated the forum.