WikeThe Federal Ministry of Education, in collaboration with the Linguistic Association of Nigeria (LAN), on Tuesday, 25th February, commemorated the 2014 International Mother Language Day (IMLD) at a colourful ceremony at the Conference Hall of the Federal Ministry of Education, Federal Secretariat Complex, Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory.

The event, which was organized by the ministry in collaboration with the Linguistic Association of Nigeria (LAN), had as theme, “Local Languages for Global Citizenship: Spotlight on Science.”

Speaking at the occasion, the Supervising Minister of Education, Barr. Ezenwo Nyeson Wike said for Nigerian children to know our history, values and traditions, they must be made to read and write in their own languages, which must start with parents as well as teaching and learning of all languages especially at the basic education level.

Represented by the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry, Dr. Macjohn Nwaobiala, the Minister stated that there was every need for Nigeria as a nation to fast-track the process of developing our indigenous languages in our children to demystify scientific concepts and rapidly place ourselves among the technologically developed economies of the world, stressing that it was a responsibility that has to begin at home where parents need to take on their children before they step their feet into the classrooms and then carry through their teenage years.

His words: “You will agree with me that our indigenous languages are facing the threat of becoming extinct due to remarkable decline in usage. Our youth, especially those living in the urban Centres hardly communicate in their mother tongues. Worse still is the sharp drop in the number of those that could read or write in those languages as a result of over dependence in the use of social media against the traditional letter-writing.”

He reiterated that the Federal Ministry of Education is constantly making conscious efforts in line with its mandate of providing and expanding access to quality education towards reversing the negative trend of declining use of indigenous language through advocacy and sensitization campaigns as well as organizing capacity building workshops for language teachers.

While stressing that the use of indigenous languages can play a significant role in conflict resolution which promotes peaceful coexistence among our various ethnic groups, Wike further called on all Nigerians, especially our students, to be proud of our culture, heritage and our country and be prepared to defend it at any fora.

The Director, Igbo Resource Education Centre, Mrs. Obiageli Hope Ofomata, while presenting a paper, titled, “Our Mother Tongue is Rooted in Love,” strongly advocated for bilingualism and multilingualism as a way to foster cultural diversity in a globalized world, stressing that research has shown that if children are taught their mother tongue, it will be easier for them to speak English Language and therefore called on Nigerians to rebuild our nation with love which is our mother tongue.

In her goodwill message, the President, Linguistic Association of Nigeria (LAN), Professor Chinyere Ohiri-Aniche, decried the danger faced by indigenous languages in Nigeria and called on relevant stakeholders to take drastic actions to prevent the indigenous Nigerian mother tongues from going into extinction.

Her words: “On this International Mother Language Day, we call particularly on parents to bring up their children to speak their indigenous language. We also call on schools whether private or public to ensure that every child is taught his/her mother tongue in primary and secondary schools as prescribed in the National Policy on Education since 1977. The Federal Ministry of Education and the Nigerian Educational Research and Development Council should immediately also reinstate Nigerian languages as core subjects in the senior secondary school curriculum.”

“The Federal and State Ministries of Culture and National Orientation should promote increased media, entertainment and other cultural activities involving Nigerian languages. Above all, we call on the Federal Government with the collaboration of the National and State Houses of Assembly, the Federal Ministry of Education and other stakeholders to urgently convene a National Language Policy Summit, where Nigerians will decide if we should allow our indigenous languages to die or if we should take steps to safeguard and promote them,” she said.

Meanwhile, the Executive Secretary of the National Institute for Cultural Orientation (NICO), Dr. Barclays Foubiri Ayakoroma was represented at the event by the Acting Director, Orientation and Cultural Affairs Department, Mr. Alex Omijie.

Jackson Onobun

NICO HQ, Abuja