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.
Appraising The Legal Profession
If I say that I want to be a lawyer, it will perhaps raise a smile or doubts concerning my sanity. Nevertheless, it is a fact that even today the Bar has a strange fascination for me.
Many people denounce the legal profession because of its seeming tendency to compromise practitioners. I don’t agree with those persons because I believe for every profession, there is the right person who is bound to succeed in it.
Of course, there are many who castigate the law profession, whether one succeeds in it or not. These ones say that the profession serves no practical purpose; that lawyers are unnecessary in a society where there is a perfect adjustment or better still, where Plato’s utopic ideals reign supreme.
But I consider it an abstract approach to the question. What if that perfect society does not exist – as surely it does not exist just at – why shouldn’t a man enter a profession which is a necessity in an imperfect society?
As society remains constituted, there is no doubt that lawyers perform the most useful function. Indeed, I cannot imagine any society in which there will be no lawyers. If there is civilization, there must be law; and if there is law, there must be lawyers. Disputes occur even in the most nicely adjusted society, and they must be settled in terms of the law that prevails.
Law exists for this reason that when there is a quarrel, it will not lead to what is called in logic the argumentum ad baculum, which means having recourse to force. In a civilized society, the law has superseded force and to assist in the administration of the law is to help civilized life to operate.
But it is usually said that the legal profession is such that honesty is impracticable. This argument leaves me cold. For the dishonest man, there is dishonesty in every profession. If I keep to the straight path, I do not think I can do any harm, even the temptation to be dishonest cannot affect me.
My business as a lawyer, as I understand it, will not be to falsify facts or twist evidence, but to explain facts and interpret the law in relation to such facts. I am sure if the client knows that I will not advise him against the trend of the law or the evidence available, he will have all the greater respect for my advice and will come to me with redoubled confidence.
It is more difficult for me to answer the economic arguments against joining the legal profession than the moral. It is said – and rightly so – that the law profession in Nigeria is over-crowded. But there is always room at the top for the best. That is to be among the best.
I have seen new entrants to the legal profession idling away their time instead of applying their minds whole-heartedly to the onerous task of preparation, which is always and in every profession very difficult. I mean to spend the first few years when briefs are few and far between in reading hard, thus familiarizing oneself with the technicalities of the profession.
The legal profession is a highly intellectual trade. It requires a keen and intellectual mind. It has no end of charm for those who delight in pursuing the truth through a labyrinth of complicated facts. Concerning the study of law, Edmund Burke said:
“This study renders men acute, inquisitive, dexterous, prompt in attack, ready in attack, ready in defence, full of resources”. And of lawyers, he said that “they augur misgovernment at a distance and sniff the approach of tyranny in every tainted breeze”. Surely, lawyers are the custodians of the people’s rights and liberties.
The evil side of the legal profession is often a little too much advertised. I don’t deny the existence of this aspect of the profession. But at the same time, one must not be blind to the great good that lawyers have done. They have been the guardians of law and liberty. They have protected the individual from the tyranny of the high and mighty.
Examples abound in this regard. Men like late Chief Gani Fawehinmi, SAN, Mr Femi Falana, SAN, etc are known to practice law for more social than economic reasons. They fight for the rights of the down-trodden and oppressed. They have also insisted that the government must also keep within the limits of the statutes.
In all countries, it is the lawyers who have taken the largest share in protecting political rights and in denouncing executive tyranny. In our country, some of the greatest names – living or dead – belong to the legal profession.
In joining such a profession, therefore, I feel that I am not doing anything unwise or improper. On the contrary, I believe that I will be upholding the highest traditions if I can make good my ambition to be a member of this noble profession.
Building A Life Of Excellence
Every individual is born on this earth for three major purposes, namely: to acquire a wide range of personal experiences and awareness to facilitate ascent; atone for existing errors and deficiencies to free oneself from burdens, and to contribute one’s bit towards a better humanity. Opportunities for these purposes always come through interactions and encounters with a diversity of people, events and environments. Even unpleasant or sad encounters provide enormous learning opportunities.
That children are born into different circumstances and environments should provide opportunity for anyone to learn why things differ among individuals, thus clarifying some perplexities in life. Similarly challenges and personal perplexities provide vital opportunities for anyone to learn, make adjustments and also strive for a life of excellence. Such life of excellence comes about through accomplishment of the three purposes stated above and by turning personal challenges into rewarding assets. Everyone is born with some assets and liabilities which unfold with age and which provide the pegs for the striving towards excellence, through personal initiatives.
Life on earth is a schooling process in itself; therefore, further opportunities provided by formal schooling are additional advantages. Absence of such formal schooling should not be a handicap for anyone who did not have such opportunity.
Yes, formal education, up to the highest level, can be a great opportunity and advantage in the modern world of industrialization. But skill acquisition in line with the inherent ability and aptitude of an individual can be more relevant than generalized formal learning. Apprenticeship is a vital learning process.
Truly, we learn in life, more through practical and direct encounters, than we do in schools. One vital lesson in this regard is that organized or formal learning in schools can be a burden or handicap to some individuals. Another vital lesson which we should keep in mind is that there are people who are born with certain abilities, talents or aptitudes whose development may not require formal schooling process. However, because of human pride and assumptions, much value and emphasis are placed on formal schooling.
For those who seek to build a life of excellence, irrespective of their circumstances of birth and academic exposures, there are some questions to serve as guidelines: First, in what activity of endeavour do you have the strongest capacity and natural flair, aptitude and interest? The principle of scales of preference or comparative advantage can be helpful in answering this question.
An individual can be strong or capable in more than one specific area, but there is always a definite ability where the highest strength lies. It is important to capitalize on and develop the most favourable personal strength to an optimal capacity. Rather than be a jack-of-all-trades, it is more profitable to develop maximum capacity in a specialized ability, where an individual has the strongest flair. To build a life of excellence means to capitalize on and maximise one’s strongest aptitude or ability. Such ability needs to be accurately identified first, objectively.
Every individual has a unique way of doing things with maximum impetus and a sense of satisfaction. Therefore, a second question to ask and clarify would be: In what ways do I work best? Some people work best when they work alone and in silence, while others can be described as team-workers. If a “loner” has to work with a team, he may not be functioning at his best, in the same way that a “team-worker” may not be at his best working alone. This unique work-attitude of individuals should be taken into account in the effort to build up a life of excellence. It is the duty of every individual to identify his or her unique work habit. Joyfully!
The question of personal value is quite vital in building a life of excellence. Values derive and arise from the ethical orientation, world view, mind-set and attitude of an individual towards people, life and activities. Obviously, differences exist among people arising from individual orientations, but everyone has a responsibility to identify and clarify his or her own peculiar values. Therefore, the third question towards structuring personal excellence is: What values do I cherish and stand for in life? This translates into personal conviction and orientation.
Self-knowledge is a vital starting point in the building up of personal excellence, and this would include the knowledge that people differ widely in their perceptions of issues, among other differences. From personal strengths and weaknesses, work habits and values, it is obvious that individuals fit in differently in a world of diversity. Therefore, a fourth question necessary in putting together materials for personal excellence would be: Where do I belong or fit in? Answers to this question would cover knowledge of one’s strengths and weaknesses, what ways one works best and what values one subscribes to in life.
Another vital question to address should be: What do I consider as my principal good or mission in life, to form the basis of my contribution to humanity? Without going into the issue of professional guidance and counseling in the choices of careers by individuals, it is the responsibility of everyone to embark on the task of self-knowledge. It is through such effort that an individual can identify the principal goal, mission and what contribution that one can make in life. No responsible adult would consider his or her life as having no purpose, which must be determined by one’s values, attitude and personal orientation. Imitation invites failure.
Three principal directions where excellence can manifest are usually in physical prowess, courage and stamina, artistic dexterities and craftsmanship, and intellectual brilliance, especially in penmanship and intuitive perception. Excellence lies where one finds joyful activity.
Dr. Amirize is a retired lecturer from the Rivers State University, Port Harcourt.
Stemming Noise Pollution
Noise is hazardous to human health. It is an enemy of the environment as it pollutes the surroundings. Experts have regularly warned about the dangers of constant exposure to noise.
In recent years, many studies have shown that noise is an issue that must be taken into serious consideration. Not only has noise pollution been associated with hearing loss, there are other harmful effects on the human body.
According to an article in British Medical bulletin, other issues resulting from noise include hypertension, social disorder, psychological and psychiatric disorder, among others. “It is generally believed that noise disturbs activities and communications, causing annoyance. In some cases , annoyance may lead to stress responses, then symptoms and possible illness”, posits the article.
The question, is what is being done to tackle noise pollution in the country? Two years ago, the Lagos State Government announced the sealing of about 53 churches, mosques and hotels across the state over noise pollution and other environmental offences.
That action reportedly followed series of complaints received by the State Environmental Protection Agency from residents who were fed up with the uncontrolled increase of noise pollution in the state.
The action received wide commendation from Nigerians especially given the fact that ours is a society where many people in authority find it difficult to take necessary measures to correct or stop certain anomalies in the land.
Ours is a country where everybody claims to be very religious to the extent that any criticism of a religious leader or a religion no matter how constructive is considered as persecution or even an attack on God.
However, during a recent visit to Lagos, it didn’t seem as if the 2015 action has deterred religious organizations and individuals from polluting the environment with noise.
Not much has changed as far as the issue of noise pollution is concerned. The churches and the mosques still disturb their neighborhood with blasts from their mega phones. In fact, it was difficult to sleep. Not with the noise from a nearby church which had a weeklong night vigil and a mosque which speakers would start blaring from 4:30am.
The situation is not different in every other state across the country. In some streets in the cities, there could be two or more worship centers disturbing the peace of the people leaving in that neighborhood in the name of worshipping. Sometimes, you will see a small church of not up to 20 members polluting the environment with the noise from huge loud speakers mounted outside, the high tuned musical equipment and the minister shouting on top of his voice.
Compare what happens in places of worship here in Nigeria with what obtains in other climes; one cannot help but wonder whether we are truly worshipping the same God.
This is because while noise of unacceptable decibels boom from our places of worship day in day out, worship in other civilized countries is associated with peace, quietness and serenity.
Is it that our God in Nigeria is hard of hearing that he requires this much debilitating noise to get his attention while the ‘oyibo’ God only needs a serene and peaceful atmosphere to hear them?
Could it be that with so much noise in the country – generator, traffic and others- one must shout to get the attention of “Nigerian God?”
With the growing number of worship centers in the country, one would have expected that the authorities concerned would have ensured that there is strict adherence to the laws on noise pollution and building of houses, but incidentally, that is not the case.
Religious houses are cited anywhere in the country irrespective of whether the place is meant to be strictly a residential area or not.
At passengers loading parks, high density residential areas, industrial areas, construction sites, on the traffic, music stalls, virtually everywhere, we are exposed to excessive noise pollution.
The truth is that the more little or no attention is paid to the control of noise pollution in the country, the more risks the people face. It is important, therefore, that concerted efforts be made by relevant authorities and individuals to combat noise pollution in our society.
Yes, we know that noise is considered part of city life which no country can evade completely, but it behoves the authorities to control it in the interest of the people.
Religious houses, clubs, hotels, event centers and other public places must be made to abide by the rules of the land. Ours cannot continue to be a country where anything goes. In many other countries, churches, mosques, clubs and other public places are sound proof. Why can’t ours be like that? Why can’t we worship without causing pain to the people around us?
Some psychologists have postulated that better education, tougher enforcement and changes in individual habit and behaviour can make a great difference. If more people are aware of the effect of noise pollution on their health and know that they have the right to report the individual or organisation causing that pollution to relevant authorities as the residents of Lagos did, and if the authorities are willing to take necessary actions against the defaulters not minding whose ox is gored, then ours will be a better place.
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