According to Ngugi Wa Thiong’o, a Professor of Com
parative Literature and English: “If you know all the languages of the world, and you don’t know your language, that is enslavement.
This remark by the Kenyan-born prolific writer remains instructive in teaching and learning particularly as it affects the African Child.
In this regard, the 1976 Soweto uprising in South Africa, indeed, has left indelible mark on the sand of time in relation to developing indigenous languages in the continent of Africa.
It is common knowledge that on June 16, 1976 about ten thousand black school children marched protesting poor quality of their education.
Of paramount significance to the development of indigenous languages, the black school children also demanded to be taught in their own language.
Evidence shows that so many of them were shot dead in the protest while several others received severe degrees of injuries.
It is no surprise, therefore, that June 16 every year has been set aside as the day of the African Child.
Better still, both the African Union (AU) and UNESCO have acknowledged June 16 as Day of the African Child to honour those black school children who were killed for protesting poor quality and most importantly demanded to be taught in their own language.
From the echoes and rhythms of the celebration of Day of African Child over the years, it does appear that much has been said about the killing and the physical pains the black school children suffered while little has been done about the systematic wearing away of African Languages and death otherwise called attrition and linguicide.
It would be recalled that one of the things that brought English Language itself to limelight even in the United Kingdom was that the owners of the language demanded the use of the language particularly in the church against the use of Latin.
This is where the famous Cramer’s Book of Common Prayers published In 1549 comes to mind.
The Book of Common Prayers came to limelight after the parliament passed an Act called the Act of Uniformity which requested among other’s that the prayers should be written and spoken in English Language instead of Latin following the plan to move the Church of England away from the Catholic Church.
The introduction of the Book of Common Prayers emanating from the Act of Uniformity further led to the Famous Prayer Book Rebellion of the same year particularly by the people of Devon and Cornwall where Catholicism not only had stronghold but the fact the people of Cornwall who did not speak or understand English as much called for translation of the New Prayer Book into Cornish, the language of Cornwall.
This call was, however, rejected but it goes to show the zeal of a people to develop a language.
The lesson from this analogy, therefore, is that owners of a language must stand up to ensure that their language do not wear away and die in embracing foreign cultures and the perceived modernity.
In fact, Bamgbose in 1993 posits thus: “When all is said and done, the fate of the endangered language may well lie in the hands of the owners of the language themselves and in their will to make it survive.
Similarly, a linguist Prof Emenannjo in 1990 echoed” thus: “Language engineering requires cooperation between the speakers of the language on one hand, and linguists, and educationists on the other hand.”
The need to develop indigenous languages, therefore, should not be trivialised and banalised.
It is pertinent to observe that at the 7th Forum on Indigenous Issues held between April 21 to May 2, 2008, UNESCO disclosed that approximately six hundred languages have disappeared in the last century and they continue to disappear at the rate of one language every two weeks.
It goes further to express the fear that up to 90 per cent of the world’s languages are likely to disappear before the end of the century if current trends are allowed to continue.
Interestingly, the National Policy on Education adopted in 2004 provides that government shall ensure that the medium of instruction in pre-primary and primary will be principally the mother tongue.
The policy further states that for primary education, the medium of instruction shall be the language of the environment and same for junior secondary where it has orthography and literature.
However, where there is no orthography, the methodology of oracy shall be explored in teaching and learning.
This is why the Federal Government itself must implement key components in the said National Policy of Education 2004 which involve the development of orthography for many more Nigerian languages as well as produce textbooks in Nigerian languages.
This policy should not be the responsibility of the federal government alone to enforce but for all the states and Local Government Areas of the federation.
To this end, the various states of the country must mobilise indigenous people and ethnic groups to exhibit interest in developing and reviving their languages gradually facing extinction.
At this juncture, it is necessary to commend Rivers State for its effort at developing indigenous languages.
For instance, Rivers State which has over 20 different ethnic groups has seventeen orthographies of 17 languages approved as Nigerian languages spoken in the state.
They include Abuan, Degema, Egbema, Engene, Eleme and Gokana. Others are Khana, Etche, Ikwerre, Ibani, Kalabari, Ndoni, Odual, Ogba, Obolo, Ekpeye and Okrika.
Worthy of note too, is the fact that Rivers State has passed into law the Rivers State Education Teaching of Indigenous Languages Law of 2003.
The law provides that the teaching of indigenous languages is made compulsory in all pre-primary, primary and junior secondary schools while the state Ministry of Education shall cause the local languages to be one of the subjects examined at the end of each term or year in the first school leaving certificate and Junior Secondary School Certificate Examinations. What remains is for the state governemnt to implement the policy in the state.
Experts, however, agree that funding by government at all levels have been a major challenge to indigenous language development.
Gross disinterestedness on part of owners of indigenous languages and the fact that people first study what will put food on the table above other considerations.
It has also been observed that cross-cultural marriages do not help matters as even some parents themselves come from families whose parents had cross cultural marriage.
There are also cases of power play, egocentricism and personality clash during the process of testing and ratifying orthographies in local communities.
This ought not to be considering the fact that learning in native tongue can boost independent thought.
This fact was attested to by the Project Director Indian (space) Moon Mission Myiswamy Annadurai when he said “Learning in one’s native tongue should not be seen as a weakness but can lead to higher independent thought.”
He concluded thus: “Many of the team behind India’s first and successful moon mission had done a large part of their academic learning in their native tongues” To this end, one cannot but salute the ingenuity, courage and request of the black school children of Soweto in June 1976 when they demanded to be taught in their indigenous languages.
Government, communities, civil society and advocacy groups as well as parents must promote the use of indigenous languages for the sake of cultural identity.
Religious bodies and sects should attach premium to translating their sacred books such as the Holy Bible and Quran into indigenous languages as part of evangelism.
In as much as funding is necessary by government, owners of indigenous languages must be alive to their responsibility of sustaining their languages. The time to act is now!
Sika is a staff of Radio Rivers.
Promoting Our Mother Tongue
It’s that time of the year when attention is paid to the importance of mother tongue and the need to promote, protect and preserve the languages of people of the world. Following the killing of some students of Bangladesh on February 21, 1952, during a protest for the recognition of their language, Bangla, as a national language, the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), at its 30th General Assembly on 17th November, 1999, resolved that their death day be commemorated globally as International Mother Language Day.
The United Nations recognizes that languages are the most powerful instruments of preserving and developing the people’s tangible and intangible heritage. It encourages all moves to promote the dissemination of mother tongues as that will serve not only to encourage linguistic diversity and multi-language education, but also help to develop further awareness of linguistic and cultural traditions throughout the world and inspire solidarity based on understanding, tolerance and dialogue.
Events like this should be used to assess how we have promoted indigenous languages in Nigeria. What measures are being taken to promote the study of Nigeria’s local languages which are fast going into extinction?
At an event recently, the President of the Institute of Project Managers of Nigeria, Dr Victoria Okoronkwo, raised alarm over what she called an emerging trend which might lead to loss of local language and dialects, if urgent measures were not taken to check it.
Okoronkwo disclosed that studies showed that 60% of most Nigerian profound dialect speakers are above 50. Quoting a United Nations report, she said the percentage of children that speak local dialects is thinning down. “This may result in loss of our identity, our culture, our moral values and heritage. Hence, preserving our dialects is an important national challenge that requires our urgent and collective responsibility”.
Similarly, other experts had revealed that most Nigerian indigenous languages would be extinct in the next three decades, while about 90 per cent of them were projected to be replaced by dominant languages.
Observations show that many people no longer speak their dialects. Many parents, especially the educated ones, do not communicate with their children in their dialect and really don’t care if their children speak their language or not. All they want is for their children to speak English and other foreign languages.
Beyond this is the worrisome attitude of some people making a person who speaks his or her language feel inferior. A young woman recently narrated how her friends who are all from the same ethnic group with her, mocked her whenever she spoke her native language in their midst. For being proud of her language they nicknamed her, “bushmo” indicating that she is a primitive, local girl.
Language is defined as arbitrary oral symbols by which a social group interacts, communicates and self, expressed. It enshrines the culture, customs and secrets of the people. So, instead of looking down on people who speak their language, and making them feel their language is something to be ashamed of, we should try to instill pride in them and emulate them.
Countries like China, India, Brazil, and Japan have used their indigenous languages to excel, why can’t Nigeria do the same? Three years ago, the Minister of Science and Technology, Dr Ogbonnaya Onu, announced the Federal Government’s plan to promote pupils’ interest in Mathematics and science subjects through the teaching of these subjects in indigenous languages. He said that lack of economic growth and development will continue to stare the country in the face if science, technology and innovation are not given serious attention.
He observed that prior to enrollment in schools where they are taught in foreign languages, pupils grow up with their indigenous languages at home. As a result, there is usually a challenge to understand the foreign language first before they could even start understanding what they are being taught. He attributed pupils’ low interest in Mathematics and science subjects to this challenge and posited that teaching these subjects in indigenous languages will help students to understand Mathematics and science subjects and also promote the application of science and technology. Three years down the road, we are still waiting for materialization of the well cheered plan.
Prior to that there was the 2004 National Policy on Education which stated that government would ensure that the medium of instruction in pre-primary and primary would be principally the mother tongue. According to the policy, the medium of instruction for primary education shall be the language of the environment and same for junior secondary where it has orthography and literature.
The big question then is, what effort has federal, state and local governments made to implement this and other similar policies? How far have they gone with the development of orthography for many more Nigerian languages as well as protection and promotion of our indigenous languages?
There is need for conscious and concerted efforts by all levels of government to promote the teaching of our languages and inclusion of same in the school curricular. Other States should toe the steps of Rivers State which recently inaugurated a technical committee on modalities for the teaching of indigenous languages in public schools in the state. This initiative, if followed through, will no doubt see to the revival and promotion of indigenous languages in Nigeria.
However, the policy should not be restricted to only public schools. It should be extended to private schools with thorough monitoring to ensure compliance as many of them are very good at promoting foreign languages, cultures and ideas at the expense of our own.
In addition to these, national dialect essay competitions should be organized regularly both at all levels of government, to promote the use of our dialects in the best grammatical way possible. This will ensure sustenance and preservation of the dialects. Most importantly, we need reorientation of our minds in order to take pride in our languages and preserve them. If we as owners of these languages do not stand up to ensure that they do not die, who will?
By: Calista Ezeaku
Nigeria’s Agric: Border Closure As Panacea
When Nigeria closed its land borders in August 2019 to curb smuggling, particularly that of rice, many citizens were skeptical that the Federal Government’s decision would be favourable to the masses.
However, barely six months after the border closure, many have begun to see huge positive impacts of the ‘radical’ decision.
Many rice farms have either been opened or revived, rice plants hitherto working below installed capacities are now working in full capacities.
The volume of poultry products have highly increased, with farmers taking control of the huge market hitherto dominated by sellers’ imported poultry products.
Indeed, many enterprises have taken advantage of the closure to boost revenues.
Agriculture business operators now rely mainly on local variants to grow their produce: rice, poultry produce, tomatoes, vegetable oil, etc.
All these are expected to return Nigeria to its position as a big employer of labour and a major exporter of agricultural produce as well as a huge forex earner as in the 1960s and 1970s.
Mrs Janet Edge, Co-coordinator of the Leventis Foundation’s Agribusiness, is excited at the developments.
Edge advises Nigerians to take more advantage of the border closure to step out of poverty by going into farming to supply rice, poultry products and other goods which smuggling has checked by the border closure.
According to her, the agriculture value addition sector can gainfully absorb 30 per cent of unemployed Nigerians.
Edge, however, observes that agriculture is faced with different constraints which still hinder full productivity and growth.
According to her, there have been challenges in the areas of planting, harvesting, storage, value chain addition, consumption and commercialisation.
A farmer, Mr Fidelis Onuoha, also identifies lack of adequate application of technology, modern methods, ideas and farming equipment a hindrance.
He believes that usage of modern tools in farming will make agriculture easier and increase productivity.
”Proper utilisation of modern farm tools will improve the current state of agriculture in Nigeria.
”Ministries of agriculture can provide farmers with cooling devices for transportation to enable food products to remain fresh until delivery,’’ he says.
He advises farmers to use weather tracking websites or applications to take precautions against adverse weather conditions.
Mr Ahawaye Abdulazeez, a rice farmer is of the opinion that yields are affected by the challenges in all stages of the farming business.
Erstwhile Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbe, had said in 2018 that about 30 per cent of foods produced in Nigeria were wasted due to poor storage.
According to Ogbe, lack of storage facilities still stands in the way of successful distribution of goods, especially perishable ones.
He believes that the traditional method of storage, considered simple and effective, is not entirely adequate as it may expose agricultural produce to rodents.
”The inability of farmers to predict weather conditions can take a toll on productivity.
”High weather temperature or low weather temperature can have an adverse effect on farming,” he adds.
Mr Femi Alabi, also a farmer, calls for emphasis on innovation- driven farming.
Alabi, the Proprietor of Alpha Farms, Lagos State, is convinced that there is more to farming than just digging soil and planting crops.
“Farmers need to know how to select the right seed varieties to get optimum yield.
“They need to know the best time for planting, best on-farm practices to reduce crop loss and how to partner with the right off-takers to get the best prices for their products.
“Absence of proper information can lead to agricultural pollution. For instance, some fertilisers and manure used for the purpose of enhancing plant growth may be made of harmful chemicals.
“This can lead to destruction of the environment, thereby causing negative effect on the plants,’’ he argues.
For Mr Basil Akanwa, an agric produce marketer, marketing agricultural produce can be challenging when adequate techniques are not used.
“Farmers rely on traditional marketing procedures which may not lead to profitable outcomes,’’ he says.
He adds that presence of many middlemen in the agriculture business may have a negative effect on agric-marketing, which he describes as the activities in the conveyance of agricultural produce to their ultimate users.
“In cases where the goods pass through middlemen such as wholesalers and retailers, the prices paid by the consumer may have to pass through these intermediaries before getting to the farmer.
“As a result, the farmer will not make much profit, and some of the middlemen take advantage of farmers who do not understand how the farm market works.’’
He also argues that the presence of middlemen in loan processing hinders agric-business.
According to him, agric-marketing also suffers due to poor food packaging and competition.
Akanwa adds that agric-marketing is affected by unstable market prices which, he says, can lead to poor estimation of produce cost.
Analyst are convinced that tackling the challenges will enable local farmers to take more advantage of the border closure to boost businesses and improve the economy.
Eletuo writes for the News Agency of Nigeria.
Teenagers And Mobile Phones
An empirical study about uses and abuses of mobile phones has revealed that teenagers are the most affected among mobile phones users. According to a 2007 study by a research firm, 50-70% of 12-14 years teenagers make use of mobile phones and the number is higher among 15-17 years old. It has also been observed that one in three teens sends more than 100 text messages a day or 300 texts in a month or less.
The possession of mobile phones by young people has been a global phenomenon in recent years and indeed, an integral part of teenagers’ daily lives. It is even the most popular form of electronic communication and undoubtedly the most beneficiary interactive hub for most teens around the globe.
Do these teenagers really need mobile phone? They would undoubtedly say that mobile phone is essential to their happiness and social standing.
Mobile phone which is firstly known for reaching out to families and friends through phone calls and text messages, now with the development of technologies performs multipurpose tasks and functions with the aid of in-built applications like games, cameras, videos, music, internet access and social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, Wechat, Skype, whatsApp and so on. It has, whatsoever, re-shaped, reorganized and altered several social facets particularly on teenagers.
Mobile phone usage among teenagers has both positive and negative impacts in their lives. Some of the advantages include, having information at their fingertips. With the rise of smart phones and internet access, information or ideas are guaranteed; they source for information and familiarise themselves with things around them. Homeworks and general studies are no longer as daunting and challenging as before.
Moreso, with the help of some useful applications and search engines like Dichongries, Wikchonaries, Google, Bing,Yahoo etc, they search and research, gathering information and at the same time gaining more ideas on multiple issues and knowing what goes in the wider society, hence, improving their knowledge.
Mobile phones also enable them to develop their skills, become creative by having the chance to practise creative thinking with the use of digital contents.
Meanwhile, in abundance of skills opportunities, they avail themselves at that tender age to new opportunities like making stories out of pictures, creating movies, documentaries and also ameliorate their reading and writing skills using mobile phones.
Mobile phones have also improved connection and networking among teenagers in reaching their families and friends with the availability of social networking sites on mobile phones like Facebook, Twitter, whatsApp, Skype and others. They communicate andinteract with their loved ones through chatting, exchange of pictures and video calls without missing a moment especially when distance is a barrier.
It also enhances their living and provides them with security like being able to reach out for help while in dangerous situations or getting directions in an unfamiliar terrains and also their parents being able to trace their whereabouts.
Mobile phones usage among teenagers acquaint them with so many things in the absence of their parents or caregivers. They are no longer ignorant of things around them, they read widely and explore by themselves, become knowledgeable on the difficulties formerly encountered. With internet access, they clear their doubts.
Nevertheless, mobile phone usage among teenagers has been one of the problems seen in the society today. Its negative impact has deluded the mind, behaviour, attitudes of many young people today. In schools where mobile phones are allowed to be used by students in classrooms, they get easily distracted while lessons are going on, because instead of encoding what is being taught, they rather engage themselves in-chat with friends, visiting one website and another. They no longer give proper time to their studies; rather, they spend much time playing games, listening to music, watching videos, surfing the internet and texting with their mobile phones.
These tenagers collect money from their parents for purchase of textbooks and other learning materials but rather use the money for recharge cards and mobile subscription which will enable them gain access to internet where they download games, music, videos of all sorts which could be explicit in nature.
Due to over-exposure to the internet, teens who are more vulnerable become victims of online bullying, intimidation and all forms of harassment by online preys. Sex predators trail minors who stay alone and try to take advantage of their innocence. Often, we hear or read of teenagers whose lives are endangered after chatting with “innocent strangers” who turn out to have diabolic motives.
Moreso, teenagers are easily impressionable. The pressure to feel at par with their peers who use expensive mobile phones, irrespective of whether their parents can afford it or not can cause self esteem issues in such easily impressionable teens. These may resort to stealing, lying and extortion of money to be able to afford such.
They are so attached to their phones especially at home that they no longer know their responsibilities. They rather spend much time texting, chatting, playing games, watching videos or surfing the internet and this addiction can cause danger to their health like brain tumour due to the phone radiation, lack of concentration or sleep deprivation.
As vulnerable and impressionable as these teens could be from exchange of phone numbers, the female ones begin to develop feelings towards the male counterparts and can be lured into deceitful act like sex, exchange of explicit photograph; hence, at that tender age, they become exposed to sexual activities.
Due to over exposure to internet activities, as they visit one website or another, downloading all sorts of applications, games, videos, irrespective of age restriction, they become victims of harmful contents online. Sometimes, they are misled by the information seen online and begin to see the world from another perspective.
I think that the technology behind the invention of mobile phone actually meant well for humanity, for which teenagers are inclusive. However, while we explore the goodness of this all-important communication gadget, we must not feign ignorance of the evil tendencies of every technological breakthrough for which the mobile phone is one.
This makes it imperative for parents, teachers and caregivers in general to pay greater attention on the teenagers’ use of the mobile phone and ensure that they are not ruined by that which is intended to enhance their status.
Chisom resides in Port Harcourt.
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