Bí a bá r’àjò tá a sì délé, e̩ kúulé là á kárá ilé. E̩ kú ò̩nà là á kèrò ò̩nà. Mo ní kí n kiyín pé e̩ kú o̩jó̩ mé̩ta ni o. S̩é àlááfìà ni mo bá yin o? Ire o!
A lot has been going on in our community now, and some people who value their origin, culture, and languages have been asking questions about this social malodorous act. The new curriculum produced by Nigerian Educational Research and Development Council (NERDC) in the year 2011 has been criticized greatly by the people of good sense and undiluted knowledge. Our languages have become electives in our land whereas they are internationally recognized. Who’s to blame? YOU!
The functionality of the curriculum is yet to be ascertained. The question still remains: how on earth will a country that is clamoring for development of human in all totality will render his languages useless. I guess if China has done that before, the institutionalization of Confucius Institute in some of the states in Nigeria will be a mirage. China with her china phones (Chinko) is controlling the world technologically. So, is Chinese as a language functional? The answer will be ‘NO’ from Foreign-Nigerians but the real patriotic ones will not bite their tongues before say ‘YES’. Local-foreigners who want to be more catholic than the Pope, not knowing that they can never be more royal than the king. Ìranù! (rubbish!)
I will use this medium to call on all well meaning Nigerians who believe in what God has endowed them to advise the NERDC to review their curriculum so that our education will not turn us to foreigners in our land. A word suffices for the wise.
Experts, in this report by SAMUEL AWOYINFA, argue that the decision of the National Education Research and Development Council to make indigenous languages optional subjects in the new curriculum can lead to the extinction of these languages
That the new secondary school curriculum developed by the National Education Research and Development Council has made the hitherto compulsory indigenous languages optional subjects in the nation’s secondary school system is no longer news. What is news now is that experts and mother tongue enthusiasts are now rising in opposition to the new curriculum. They argue that it will do a great disservice to culture and tradition. It comes at a time when Nigerians should encourage the use of mother tongue by the younger generation, they add.
This development, according to some observers, may worsen an already bad situation, where many children find it difficult to communicate in the mother tongue.
The trend has drawn mixed reactions from stakeholders in the education sector. Rather than making it optional, they say, local languages should be offered at both primary and secondary school levels. They argue that indigenous languages should maintain their compulsory status in the curriculum.
One of the critics of this development, Prof. Lai Olurode, former Dean, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, University of Lagos, puts it more succinctly: “It is a very worrisome situation which must be addressed urgently at all levels.”
A Yoruba Language teacher in a public school in Lagos, who identified himself simply as Mr. Alao, says schools cannot continue to have the ‘no vernacular’ policy which is very rampant in many primary and secondary schools.
“If Prof. Babatunde Fafunwa had been alive, I’m sure this policy would have killed him; because he had been spearheading the adoption of indigenous languages as language of instruction in schools since 1971. This aspect of the curriculum must be changed,” Alao says.
Though Fafunwa’s advocacy did not yield the expected result, some educationists say this is the time that his policy should be revisited. They argue that language is at the heart of a people’s culture.
The Principal, King’s College, Lagos, Mr. Dele Olapeju, is one of those opposed to the policy. He questions the originality of a curriculum which now makes the local languages optional.
While he underscores the importance of the mother tongue as enunciated by Fafunwa, he notes that the late renowned educationist had advocated that the first three years of primary education should be taught in the mother tongue.
Olapeju also says the use of mother tongue in education promotes increased positive results in learning and development of a child.
According to him, it is rare for a Chinese or Japanese to speak another language in their country.
“Currently, the L2, which refers to the local languages at the secondary school level, is now optional for pupils. As far as I am concerned, education is not for mere education alone, it is for knowledge. Our children must be taught in our mother tongue. The Chinese teach their children in their mother tongue. Why should we be different?
“We need to learn our history. That is the only way we can evaluate education,” Olapeju counsels.
Olurode attributes the non-usage of the mother tongue among children to increasing hypocrisy and hero worship of the English language by Nigerians.
He says parents do not only discourage their kids from speaking their mother tongue, they also adopt the attitude of not speaking it among themselves.
He states, “It is a worrisome and very depressing development. It is the elite and the highly educated parents, some of whom were born by illiterate parents, who have turned around to discard their mother tongue.
“They are ignorant. It is unfortunate and paradoxical, because some of these people were born by parents who were farmers and artisans who never spoke a word in the English language to them.”
Olurode, who describes language as “power,” adds that it is also the essence of the people. “English language has become the language of oppression and international hegemony. It’s a dangerous trend, which must be addressed,” he warns
He explains that some of his friends are cross with him when he speaks his local language, Yoruba, to his children.
“Some of my friends then were saying, ‘Why should you speak Yoruba to your children?’ They say it would affect them academically; but this turned out to be untrue, as they did well and are still doing well,” Olurode says.
He relates the story of one of his European supervisors who was so versed in Yoruba language that he even conducted a research on the language. He says the language that others are embracing is what the owners of the language have refused to speak to their children.
Olurode, like Olapeju, linked the use of the mother tongue in a nation to development and growth, using China as an example.
“That is why we are where we are today. China is everywhere. They are exporting their language. It is because they have the economic power, and they achieved this through conscious efforts, which includes the projection of their language.
“Now, Nigerians in the Diaspora are sending their children back home to learn their indigenous languages,” he adds.
Also, the Principal, Federal Government College, Ugwolawo, Kogi State, Mrs. Ademide Ladipo, states that charity should begin at home. She is of the view that parents must be at the forefront of the revival of the mother tongue, which is fast dwindling.
She expresses gratitude to her mother who, she says, always spoke to her and her siblings in their mother tongue (Yoruba). This formed the bedrock of her rich knowledge of the language, she enthuses.
Ladipo, who admits that she’s also guilty of not speaking the language frequently with her children says she’s currently making amends.
“If you understand your mother tongue, it will help you to speak the English language better. As parents, we must be proud of our languages. I attended Corona School, and I spoke English language throughout my school days, but I never forgot the Yoruba language, and it did not affect my accent.
“Indians make sure their children speak their language. A four-year-old Indian can speak the language fluently,” she says.
The Proprietress, Mind Builders, Mrs. Bola Falore, shares similar views with Ladipo, adding that indigenous languages should be encouraged and taught in school.
Falore says mother tongue is important and that no nation can survive without it. She’s worried for the Yoruba, as she says many parents no longer speak the language to their children.
She intones, “We, the Yoruba, are guilty of this. Many of us no longer speak our language to our children. We forget that our language is part of our cultural heritage.”
She also makes reference to the Chinese who have taken their language to the global village to such an extent that Mandarin is now being adopted by many schools around the world, including Nigeria.
Olurode notes that the attempt to be “more English than the English” will only make us a laughing stock because we cannot speak it like the original owners.
He says the Nobel Laureate Prof. Wole Soyinka, despite his world acclaimed status, still speaks Yoruba.
Expatiating on the richness of the mother tongue, he adds, “There are many expressions and gestures that come with the mother tongue, which make it unique. Those are some of the things we may lose if we don’t retrace our steps.”
They, therefore, call on the Federal Government to prevail on the NERDC to review the curriculum, with the view to making indigenous language subjects in the nation’s school system compulsory.
“If parents are not helping them to learn their indigenous languages, the curriculum will, because they will be forced to learn the language when they know that without credit passes in these subjects, they will not be able to progress academically,” Olapeju says.
“We CAN never be more royal than the king nor be more catholic than the Pope” ____ My opinion.