[lg policy] Lagos And The Promotion Of Indigenous Language

Harold Schiffman haroldfs at gmail.com
Sat Feb 17 14:24:10 EST 2018

Lagos And The Promotion Of Indigenous Language
20 hours ago

   - News <https://www.pmnewsnigeria.com/news/>
   - Headlines <https://www.pmnewsnigeria.com/headlines/>

Oluranti Adebule, Lagos State Deputy Governor

By Ayo Afuwape

The World Bank and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural
Organisation (UNESCO) studies on basic education all indicated that
children learn better and faster – eagerly – when instructed in their
mother tongue.

Other studies further confirm that countries that rank highest in the world
in mathematics and science tests, as reported by Trends in International
Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), are usually those that pay more
attention to teaching schoolchildren in indigenous languages.

Really, learning starts at home not in school with use of indigenous
language. By using the learners’ native language, it is a bit easier to
connect in the learning process. The interactive learner-centered approach
which is well recognized by most educationists, flourishes in an
environment where learners are adequately skillful in the language of
instruction. It allows learners to make suggestions, ask questions, answer
questions and create and communicate new knowledge with enthusiasm.

About two decades ago the need to strengthen and promote indigenous
languages caught the attention of the international scene when the United
Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization, UNESCO,
proclaimed February 21st as the International Mother Language Day. The Day
is set aside to celebrate all the languages spoken all over the world with
the aim of promoting the right of people to use indigenous languages
otherwise known as mother-tongue, as means of encouraging integration in
all aspects of public life, particularly in education.

About the same time also in Harare, Zimbabwe, African leaders, having
observed the declining interest in indigenous languages across the
continent, met and restated their commitment to seriously take positive
steps towards raising the status and usage of indigenous languages.

Corroborating the position of the UNESCO and Harare declaration, the Lagos
State Government in February this year signed the Yoruba Language
Preservation and Preservation Law making it compulsory for all primary and
secondary schools – private or public – in the state to include teaching of
Yoruba Language as a core subject at all levels. The law states that
candidates seeking admission into all tertiary institutions in the State
must henceforth possess credit in Yoruba Language.

This new legislation by the Lagos State Government is in line with the
dictate of the national policy on education and a contrast to the current
practice among private school owners who offer international curricular and
teach languages of other countries like Germany, France, Turkey and the
rest as substitute to the various Nigerian indigenous languages.

In this same direction the Lagos State House of Assembly in demonstration
of its support to the promotion and preservation of the Yoruba language,
now holds its legislative sessions in Yoruba language every Thursday.

This decision by the State Government, stems out of the belief that the
promotion of the Yoruba language should be exemplified by the legislative
arm of the State and that the development would not have any adverse effect
on the academic performances of school children but would instead
strengthens cooperation among people and contribute to the attainment of
quality education for all.

In addition to this, education scholars have also argued that children can
learn over seven languages at their formative years and any child who does
not understand any concept in his/her mother tongue may find it challenging
to understand it in any other languages.

Perhaps, the most important aspect of promoting the Yoruba language is that
the promotion of the language consciously or unconsciously translates to
the promotion of the culture of the speakers, their customs and the dignity
of respect which the speakers are known for.

In other word, when children are taught the language they will also be
exposed to the societal customs and the way of life of the speakers and
this goes a long way in instilling morals thereby engendering a cultured
society and disciplined individuals who have respect for elders.

As rightly posited by a former President of South Africa, Nelson Mandela,
“If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head.
If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart”. Our indigenous
languages play a complementary role in our ability to understand and
interpret scenarios even in other languages. Linguists believe that
promoting indigenous languages will facilitate the fulfillment of national
development as it is the case with most developed countries of the world.

Lagos State, being a cosmopolitan society, a home to everyone including
expatriates is naturally prone to the western life style and if stringent
efforts are not made, the culture of its indigenous dwellers would go into
extinction in no distant future.

In complementing this bold step taken by the State Government, more
responsibilities lies on parents to ensure the promotion of the Yoruba
language is sustained by ensuring that they communicate and relate with
their children mainly in their mother tongues.

On a broader perspective and for a universal result in the educational
sector, there is need for the formulation of a comprehensive national
language policy that takes into account the use of indigenous languages in

It is high time we realized that when a language is lost, the people who
experience the loss continue to live in the shadow of other peoples’
identity and culture. More attention should be on the preservation of the
Yoruba language for the upcoming generation in order not to sell out the
Yorùbá culture totally or use it as a surrogate to a foreign culture.

Also, parents need to go back to the tradition of storytelling to teach
morals and cultural values; they should speak Yorùbá language to their
children and encourage the children to do the same thereby enhancing their
knowledge and confidence in the language.

Members of the public should desist from seeing these foreign languages as
a status conferrer at the detriment of our valuable indigenous languages
and also know that preserving these languages from extinction is the
responsibility of all Nigerians.

*Afuwape, is of the Lagos State Ministry of Information and Strategy,
Alausa, Ikeja*


 Harold F. Schiffman

Professor Emeritus of
 Dravidian Linguistics and Culture
Dept. of South Asia Studies
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6305

Phone:  (215) 898-7475
Fax:  (215) 573-2138

Email:  haroldfs at gmail.com

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