Nepal: How to save indigenous tongues from extinction

Four-year-old Siriya Shahi from Kathmandu is a shy girl if you try to talk to her in Nepali. Unable to speak or understand, she stays quietly in a corner of the classroom, unwilling to participate in school activities. But talk to her in her native language, Newar, and she springs into action.

Siriya is one of many Nepalese children from different indigenous communities and linguistic minority groups who are marginalised in school by the State's failure to recognise and cater for the diversity of languages that occupy Nepal. This failure has led to an increased number of dropouts and a low academic success rate among students from non-Nepali-speaking communities. On the hand, children who have been educated in their mother tongue from a young age show a faster level of intellectual development and a greater enthusiasm to attend school. 

The right of children to be educated in their mother tongue requires proper enforcement in Nepal to ensure indigenous children stay in school. All 123 languages in Nepal must be recognised and promoted in every sector, from education, administration, the legal system and the media. 

Photo: Students take an exam at Jagat Sundar Bwonekthi Secondary School in Kathmandu. Credit: Dev Kumar Sunuwar

Contact the author:

Dev Kumar Sunuwar


Telephone: 977-9841666831

Click on the link below to read Dev Kumar Sunuwar's full report on the importance of promoting indigenous languages in Nepalese schools:


< back 

Date: 30/06/2014




Indigenous Peoples

This website has been produced with the financial assistance of the European Union.
The contents of this website are the sole responsibility of Minority Rights Group International and can under no circumstances be regarded as reflecting the position of the European Union