Folow us on social media

Sign up to our mailing list

shirleyvalentine

5,000-mile journey to share language struggle story

fáilte: Bangladesh Minister Saifuzzaman Chowdhury visits Coláiste Feirste with South Belfast MLA Máirtín Ó Muilleoir and pupils from Cólaiste Féirste; below, 5,000 miles separate Belfast from Bangladesh fáilte: Bangladesh Minister Saifuzzaman Chowdhury visits Coláiste Feirste with South Belfast MLA Máirtín Ó Muilleoir and pupils from Cólaiste Féirste; below, 5,000 miles separate Belfast from Bangladesh
By Michael Jackson

5,000 miles and more may separate Belfast from Bangladesh but a common struggle for language rights bridged that gap last week when the first-ever Bangladeshi ministerial visit arrived on these shores.
Feted at City Hall and in Stormont, the delegation from the Asian nation, population 170m, was led by Minister for Land Saifuzzaman Chowdury who took time out from a round of trade and diplomatic meetings to travel to the West Belfast Irish school Coláiste Feirste.
He was welcomed to the 800-pupil school where all subjects are taught through the medium of Irish by Chair of the Board of Governors Seán Mistéil, principal Micheál Mac Giolla Ghunna and sixth-form pupils.
At an informal meeting in the school library, Minister Chowdury shared the story of how United Nations Mother Languages Day was instituted to mark the 1952 massacre by the East Pakistan Police of Bangaldeshis protesting for recognition for their native tongue, Bangla. Bangladesh finally won its freedom from East Pakistan in 1952 after a bloody, 11-month war of independence which left up to three million dead.
Of late the developing country has been in the headlines for providing shelter to 750,000 Rohingya who have fled persecution in neighbouring Myanmar.
“Coláiste Feirste was honoured to welcome the Bangladeshi delegation,” said Seán Mistéil. “Minister Chowdhury explained the importance of mother languages to nation building and economic well-being. That resonated powerfully with our students.”
Minister Chowdhury toured the site of the Gaeltacht Quarter’s next development project: a triangle of disused land which represents one of the last building sites fronting the Falls Road.
“We have bold plans to transform this triangle of land into a Gaeltacht housing and tourism project,” added the Coláiste Feirste Chairman. “This vibrant and visionary social development initiative will promote the collective economic capacity of the wider Spórtlann na hÉireann and Coláiste Feirste site. We believe that maximising this hub of interdependent and unique elements is best achieved through a one site vision that connects all of its parts. We have this coordinating vision in place and it has enterprise and exchange at its heart. It is infused with environmental and economic promise and includes a wealth of cultural, sporting and human potential.”
The visit of the Bangladeshi delegation was hosted by London-based Study Circle and facilitated by the growing Bangladeshi population of Belfast.

Please follow and like us: