[lg policy] Groups canvass policy on promotion of indigenous languages

Harold Schiffman haroldfs at gmail.com
Sun Feb 25 15:49:18 EST 2018

 Groups canvass policy on promotion of indigenous languages
By * Lawrence Njoku (Enugu) and Sunday Aikulola (Lagos)*
25 February 2018   |   12:24 pm
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President-General of Ohaneze Ndigbo, Chief John Nwodo
Renowned scholar and president of Ndigbo Lagos Foundation, Prof. Anya O.
Anya, has advocated the need for government to formulate a national policy
to encourage the vigorous use of indigenous languages.

He spoke at the 2018 UNESCO International Mother Language Day, organised by
Youth Orientation for Development (YOD). It was held last Wednesday in

Anya noted that the policy is imperative in order for local languages not
to go into extinction through the onslaught of globalisation.

It would be recalled that in 2012, UNESCO predicted the extinction of Igbo
language by 2025 following its classification, as one of the endangered
languages in the world.

With the theme ‘Igbo Language will not Go Extinct,’ he further stated that
government, through the Ministry of Education, should identify the
languages that are going into extinction and ensure that they are revived.

He added that government should also learn from the Jewish state of Israel,
who he said were scattered all over the world, but made the language
compulsory in order for Hebrew language not to go extinct. He also tasked
older people to teach the young ones their languages, observing such action
would make it impossible for any language in the country to be extinct.

On his part, YOD president, Mr. Emmanuel Ejiogu noted that the essence of
organising the programme was to raise awareness on the need to promote the
use of Igbo language through the various communication channels and media,
especially for Igbo children. He canvased that Igbo literature, films and
music should be encouraged and promoted.

According to Ejiogu, “We are not only particular about only the Igbo
language, but other rich languages that make up the entity called Nigeria.

We are ready to collaborate with and support all the socio cultural groups
who are concerned with the promotion and preservation of our diverse
cultures because this is one of the ideals of everywhere, in education and
administrative systems, in cultural expressions and the media, cyberspace
and trade.”

UNESCO celebrates International Mother Language Day (IMLD) on February 21,
2017 under the theme to foster sustainable development in which learners
must have access to education in their mother tongue and in other

It is through the mastery of the first language or mother tongue that the
basic skills of reading, writing and numeracy are acquired. Local
languages, especially minority and indigenous, transmit cultures, values
and traditional knowledge, thus playing an important role in promoting
sustainable futures.

In a related development, Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze
Ndigbo, has advocated for the speaking of Igbo as the official language at
every public function involving Ndigbo. The organisation also called on the
governors of the South East to make the teaching and learning of Igbo
language a compulsory subject in the school system.

The body said it was ready to embark on projects in partnership with other
organisations to pursue the cause of advancing Igbo culture and tradition.
It made the advocacy while reflecting on activities of UNESCO International
Mother Language Day (IMLD) 2018 usually celebrated on February 21 every

In a statement signed by the President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief
Nnia Nwodo, the organisation further advocated for wearing of Igbo attires
by government officials on special days, while Igbo
language should be made the official language at every sitting of the
various state houses of assembly in the South East zone.

The statement, signed by the Special Adviser (Media), Chief Emeka
Attamah, added, “Igbo state governors should ensure that special days are
set aside for the wearing of purely Igbo attires for those in government
offices and the use of Igbo language in carrying out legislative
proceedings in their state assemblies on such days.”

The organisation also enjoined governments of all Igbo speaking states to
build cultural or arts centres to help in preserving Igbo cultural
artifacts, as well as encourage their state council of arts and culture to
perform optimally.

It also called for the harmonization of the Igbo festival of New Yam
celebration henceforth to hold on a common date annually, stating it would
ginger unity among the Igbo race and enable Igbo leaders to cultivate the
habit of speaking with one voice on national issues.


 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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