The Head, Department of Linguistics, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Professor Cecilia Eme, has suggested that Nigerian students from pre-primary, primary, post-primary and even the University should be taught in Nigerian indigenous languages, stating that research has shown that students understand and assimilate faster and better when they are taught in the native language, and that realistic development of a country can only occur when people invest in their mother tongue.
Stating this in keynote address she delivered at the National Conference on “Nigerian Languages, Education and Development,” organized by the University of Nigeria Institute for Nigerian Languages, Aba Campus, Abia State, she said this was necessary because Nigerian students are disadvantaged in the Nigerian educational system due to non-usage of indigenous languages in teaching in Nigeria.
In the paper, titled, “Language in Nigerian Education and the Quest for National Development,” the university don bemoaned the situation where many people believe that English language was crucial not only to Nigerians, but across the globe, noting that with this thinking, such people felt that Nigerian languages could be ignored in the educational system while English is promoted at all levels.
Her words: “This kind of thinking is unfortunate, as evidence abounds of countries that have broken even in all aspects of life, especially in science and technology, by using their local languages at all levels in the education system. For instance, instead of such countries as Singapore, India, China, Japan, North Korea, South Korea, Taiwan, Indonesia, Thailand and Germany to be frustrated because they cannot use English, they excel in their chosen careers, forcing the citizens of other countries to come and learn from them; and learning from them means learning their languages too.”
Calling for what she termed a workable language policy for the country, Professor Eme stated: “Nigeria needs a National Policy which will not be provisions on paper alone (like many aspects of NPE) but a policy to be implemented and officially supported with all necessary material, financial and human resources. Stakeholders in the Nigerian educational development agenda like the Government, linguists (especially language planners), educationists, and publishers must be called together to fashion out a workable language policy for the country. Such policy would ensure that its implementation will make Nigerian students in our education system to be taught using indigenous Nigerian languages.”
She further said that the advantage of this is that it will bring Nigeria to the reality of development, which will help the country grow technologically in the same way the Japanese and Chinese are doing, because language constitutes the basis of a people’s personality while contributing to their creative genius.
“The truth is that it is difficult for a multi-lingual nation like Nigeria to make serious impact in its quest for national development without a well-defined and strictly-implemented National Language Policy,” she surmised.
Nwagbo Pat Obi