As Rwanda joined the world in celebrating International Mother Language Day on Tuesday, February 21, officials said institutions should be proud to promote Kinyarwanda, the national language, through their services. International Mother Language Day is a worldwide annual observance to promote awareness of linguistic and cultural diversity and to promote multilingualism. ALSO READ: How new AI infrastructure will preserve Kinyarwanda According to Rwanda Cultural Heritage Academy (RCHA), the main purpose of celebrating the mother language is to continue to preserve and promote Kinyarwanda as the basis of the unity and dignity of Rwandans. This year’s celebrations were centred on the theme of the promotion and usage of Kinyarwanda in service delivery. According to the academy, Kinyarwanda is spoken by an estimated 40 million people in Rwanda, parts of southern Uganda, and eastern DR Congo. ALSO READ: UNESCO urges mother language education implementation “The promotion of Kinyarwanda requires giving it the value as a medium of education and upbringing because knowledge is best understood when it is passed through the mother language,” said Jean-Claude Uwiringiyimana, RCHA’s Deputy Director-General. “This year’s theme particularly encourages institutions and service providers to use Kinyarwanda properly, be it in speaking or writing, as well as embarking on coining new words and terminologies for their services.” ALSO READ: What it takes to coin new Kinyarwanda words, terminologies Uwiringiyimana said due to the fact that the institutions serve mostly Rwandans, it should be the incentive to deliver their services in Kinyarwanda. Celebrating International Mother Language Day goes with continuing to care about Kinyarwanda, and reflecting on its value, with every Rwandan embarking on its preservation through proper usage in speaking and writing, the academy said. At the national level, the celebrations will be held in Huye District, Southern Province. International Mother Language Day was first introduced by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 1999. In 2023, the 24th edition of International Mother Language Day will focus on the theme ‘Multilingual education - a necessity to transform education’. Multilingual education based on the mother tongue facilitates access to and inclusion in learning for population groups that speak non-dominant languages, languages of minority groups, and indigenous languages, UNESCO said. “To help fight the current global learning crisis, while preserving linguistic diversity which is an essential cultural element, UNESCO urges governments to embrace multilingual education based on the mother tongue from the earliest years of schooling. We know it works – there is empirical evidence to prove it helps children learn,” said UNESCO Director-General, Audrey Azoulay. According to UNESCO, at least 40 per cent of the more than 6,700 languages spoken around the world are threatened with extinction in the long term, due to a lack of speakers. Globally, 40 per cent of the population does not have access to an education in a language they speak or understand. Nevertheless, UNESCO says, progress is being made in multilingual education with a growing understanding of its importance, particularly in early schooling, and more commitment to its development in public life.