author, Prof. Ngigi Wa Thiong’o, recently urged African countries to promote their indigenous languages for meaningful social and economic development.
He spoke in Lagos at the second edition of the “Read Africa’’ initiative of the United Bank for Africa Foundation to promote reading culture among pupils.
The Kenyan writer and author of “Weep Not Child’’, expressed concern about the rate at which African nations abandoned their languages for foreign languages.
According to him, people are enslaved if they are proficient in other languages but are not interested in understanding their indigenous languages very well.
“I stopped writing in English language 10 years ago because Africa is our base and we must not lose our base and our indigenous languages.
“Since then, I have been writing in Nkiyu language and I later do translation myself or I look for somebody to do it for me,’’ he said.
Wa Thiong’o, nonetheless, argued that people who acquired other languages had additional advantages, insisting that such people would be able to appreciate the values of their indigenous languages better.
Observers, therefore note that such advocacy from a reputable African author, perhaps, inspires most societies to protect and give priority to the teaching of their indigenous languages in schools.
They cite the development in Osun, where the state House of Assembly passed a bill to an act to enforce compulsory teaching of Yoruba language as a subject in public and private schools in the state.
The House, having examined the importance of the bill entitled: “Osun State Education Amendment bill 2014’’, passed the bill to an act on September 15.
Mr Afolabi Atolagbe, the Deputy Leader of the House, representing Ifedayo Constituency, moved a motion for its passage while a member of the House, Mr Abiodun Awolola, representing Egbedore Constituency, seconded it.
Highlighting the importance of compulsory teaching of Yoruba language as a subject in schools, Atolagbe said the law would prevent the language from extinction and preserve the cultural values and tradition of the Yoruba.
Mr Najeem Salaam, the Speaker of the House, said the House would also set aside a day in a week to conduct its proceedings in Yoruba Language.
Salaam said a section of the act stated that: “Any person, being the proprietor of a public or private school, who contravenes any provision of the bill, shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable to a fine of not less than N10,000, if convicted.’’
Irrespective of the provisions of the act, residents of the state have commended the lawmakers in the state for their courage to pass the bill.
In his view, Mr Femi Adegboye, a civil servant in the state, commended the lawmakers, urging the appropriate authorities to ensure that schools enforce the provisions of the act.
According to him, authorities should make pragmatic efforts at ensuring the teaching of Yoruba language as a subject in schools to prevent it from extinction.
“Policy makers in education should take urgent steps to revive and improve the language by teaching it among the schools across the states, especially where it is spoken,’’ he said.
Sharing similar sentiments, Mr Oluwasegun Ayanda, a historian, said the compulsory teaching of the language would go a long way in enriching the vocabulary of the language.
He decried the rate at which Nigerians switched from their indigenous languages to other languages, especially English language, warning that such practice would alienate them from their immediate environment.
Ayanda commended the lawmakers for passing the bill, noting that such step would stimulate pupils and students to use the language in public activities.
He recalled that the People’s Republic of China was able to achieve the present level of development because the people used their mother tongue for education and other transactions.
He, therefore, urged the state government to ensure that all schools in the state teach Yoruba language as a subject.
“Those who have the mastery of other people’s languages at the expense of their own indigenous languages have subjected themselves to second slavery.
“We should promote our languages and we should encourage our children to speak our own language,’’ Ayanda said.
Commending the state assembly members, Mr Oluwaseun Adeniran, a secondary school teacher in the state, said the law would correct the impression that English language was superior to Yoruba language.
He observed that some school authorities had relegated Yoruba language to the background, observing that with the passage of the bill, the situation would change.
Observers, nonetheless, urge the relevant stakeholders to ensure that necessary mechanism is put in place to enforce the provision of the law.
Mr Ibidapo Ojekunle, an educationist, observed that some members of the society had considered their languages as inferior to English language and preferred to use the latter in most interactions even with their family members.
He commended the state lawmakers for the passage of the bill, noting that it would change the views of the young about the language and expose them to its vocabulary.
Skeptics, nonetheless, express concern that although the courage of the lawmakers in passing the bill is laudable, the law may not be effective as most observers hope.
They insist that except the state government and stakeholders in education take appropriate steps to enforce the law, it may not be different from previous ineffective laws.
According to them, the state government must convince the public that it has plans to ensure that the schools in the state adhere to the provisions of the act.
Adeoti writes for News Agency of Nigeria (NAN)