…Blames Stance on Colonial Mentality, Lack of Vision, Transactional Approach to Education A renown Linguistics Scholar, Prof Francis Oisaghaede Egbokhare, has adduced the condescending nature of many Nigerian universities to the teaching of the country’s indigenous languages to “colonial mentality and lack of vision”. Lamenting why our universities are increasingly becoming centers of excellence in
…Blames Stance on Colonial Mentality, Lack of Vision, Transactional Approach to Education
A renown Linguistics Scholar, Prof Francis Oisaghaede Egbokhare, has adduced the condescending nature of many Nigerian universities to the teaching of the country’s indigenous languages to “colonial mentality and lack of vision”.
Lamenting why our universities are increasingly becoming centers of excellence in modern European languages rather than being experts in the teaching of our over 300 local languages, Egbokhare, also the immediate president, Nigerian Academy of Letters, blamed what he called “transactional approach to education” where “everything is reduced to dollars and pounds.”
“It’s really sad that we always opt for anything foreign than promoting things around us. It’s like we prefer to train our students to facilitate the development of other countries than our own,” the professor of Linguistics and African languages at the University of Ibadan quipped.
That must be why the Nigerian Association of Linguistics sent a proposal to government via the National Educational Research and Development Council (NERDC), to ensure that all universities teach the language of their area of domicile as part of the new language policy. In fact, scholars like Prof Egbokhare and the NERDC have for many years been pushing hard on this.
The universities located in the Southsouth and Middle belt regions of the country are perhaps the biggest culprits. In the Southsouth, only the University of Benin which teaches Edo up to PhD level and Delta State University that offers Urhobo at the bachelor’s level promote some form of local languages. Delsu’s Department of Linguistics which began the BA Linguistics/Urhobo in the 2002/2003 academic session is gearing to upgrade the programme to post graduate level.
The Niger Delta University, Federal University, Otuoke and University of Port Harcourt do not offer Izon or any languages of the Niger Delta area where they are located. The Ambrose Alli University (AAU), Ekpoma, founded in 1981 and located in Edo central senatorial zone, also does not teach Esan nor any Edo languages. Neither does the Edo University, Uzarue floated by the administration of Governor Adams Oshiomhole offer any languages in the northern part of the state.
The University of Jos located in the heart of the Middle Belt does not teach any of the numerous languages of the area. Neither does the Taraba State University and the Federal University, Wukari which ought to be the lever for the development of the languages of the several ethnic group massed in the defunct Kwararafa kingdom.
The Middle Belt which is perhaps the most diverse region of the country, consists of many ethnic groups speaking over 230 languages. Although there is no dominant ethnic group, but among the larger groups as of 1991 are Tiv 5.1 million, Nupe 1.8 million. Others include Idoma, Igede, Ebira, Gbagyi, Igala, Adara, Afizere, Atyap, Baatonum, Bachama (Bwatiye), Bajju; Berom, Jukun, Chamba and so on.
The country’s three main languages – Hausa, Yoruba and Igbo which are more widely taught have elicited greater support over the years. Hausa, which is used by many international broadcast channels is the most influential while the teaching of Igbo currently bedeviled by shortage of Igbo language teachers is threatened.
Egbokhare, a brilliant scholar who attained professorship at 37, also fingered the lack of vision by the universities who kept arguing that local languages do not have business appeal to attract many applicants.
“What of if you pair it as a combined honours course like Yoruba and Communication Studies, the same way History is now paired with either International Relations or Strategic Studies,” he reasons in an exclusive interview with the Nigerian Democratic Report (NDR).
Some government appear to be taking the bull by the horn. The Akwa Ibom State Governor, Udom Emmanuel in February 2017 directed that all secondary schools in the state must teach Ibibio, now offered as a course at the Akwa Ibom State College of Education. This will make it possible for Ibibio to be offered at the bachelor’s level in later years.
“I am directing the ministry of education to ensure that Ibibio language is taught in all public secondary schools in the state beginning from the next academic session.
“Teaching of indigenous languages would help the younger generation appreciate their mother tongue and culture as against foreign languages,” he said.
In October 2016, the Akwa Ibom state House of Assembly passed a resolution to make teaching and learning of native languages compulsory in public and private secondary schools.
The resolution was made as a result of a motion moved by Aniekan Uko, a member representing Ibesikpo Asutan constituency.
“I am concerned by the depreciation of interest in the speaking of our native languages at homes; and with the way they are handled in schools, our culture and identity are at the risk of extinction.
“If this trend is not checked, our culture, tradition and unity will be threatened and our languages may go extinct upon the death of the older folks,” the lawmaker said.
Recently the Esan Okpa Initiative (EOI), a newly created socio-cultural association with a vision to advance the cause of the Esan people, located in the central senatorial zone of Edo State, raised the alarm that the Esan language and culture was on a downward slide, facing imminent extinction. It however resolved to stem the tide by commiting huge resources, deploy technology and float mini language clinics in Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt and the Diaspora in order to massively promote Esan language and culture.
It’s President, Rt Hon Mathew Egbadon, also pioneer Speaker, Edo State House of Assembly, who addressed a press conference in Benin City says,
“EOI is concerned that the Esan language is fast going into extinction, as many of our people, particularly the young ones, including those who live in Esanland, cannot speak the language, let alone write in it.
“The situation is so worrisome, to the extent that many of our people cannot string a simple sentence together in Esan language without mixing it up with mostly English language.
“As a body, we have identified and outlined programmes and events we shall be embarking on soon, to sensitize and rekindle our people’s interest in speaking and writing in Esan language.
“We have plans to promote Esan language and culture among the Esan people, including those living outside the State, by setting up mini Esan language clinics in places like Lagos, Port Harcourt, Abuja and in the diaspora.”
While calling on the Edo State government to reintroduce the study of Esan language which was previously offered at WASCE, in its school curriculum, at the primary and secondary school levels in Esanland, comprising five LGAs of the state, it decried the non teaching of the language by the 40 year old state owned Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma.
“In the past, Esan language was taught in schools and was even part of the West African School Certificate Examination syllabus. We have adequate texts and books in Esan Language to support its teaching and teachers in schools in Esan Land.
“We will make a similar request to the State-owned University, Ambrose Alli University (AAU), Ekpoma, to, as a matter of urgency, introduce the study of Esan and other Edo languages and culture as part of the programme at its Department of Language Studies.
“It is anomalous that AAU’s Department of Languages does not teach Esan or any of the Edo languages, but teaches French, Russian and Spanish.
“It is on record that the University is probably the only one with a language department that does not have a programme on the study of the language of its catchment area.
“As a body, EOI shall be ready to make its contributions in whatever way it can, to support the State government and the University in the study of Esan language and culture,” Egbadon assures.