Assistant Director and Coordinator, National Institute for Cultural Orientation (NICO) Training School, Abuja Study Centre, Dr. (Mrs.) Regina Onuoha, has called on Nigerian women, especially mothers, to play the critical role of promoting Nigeria’s indigenous languages, by teaching their children to learn and speak their indigenous languages.
Dr. Onuoha made this call at Radio House, Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory, recently, while speaking to Emerald Donald, the Producer of a Radio Nigeria Programme, “Every Woman,” airing on Kapital 92.9FM, every Sunday by 7:00pm.
Fielding questions from the anchor person on the programme, she noted that it is pertinent for women, who are mothers, to know their role in the society towards helping to promote and preserve Nigerian indigenous languages by transmitting same to children in the home as they grow up, because researches have revealed that children learn more and better in their early years.
Asked why she is making the call to women and what her opinion is about how the Nigerian youth views indigenous languages, Onuoha opined that, for the simple fact that the programme is targeted at every woman, women are the ones who have closer and longer contact with children from infancy to their adolescent ages, in most cases, and that is why women needed to be informed that speaking indigenous language(s) to children during this early stage of their lives is very important towards making them learn their parents’ indigenous languages or the languages of their immediate environment.
She said the fact that Nigerian youths are not taking indigenous languages seriously is enough reason they ought to be taught the essence of indigenous languages to a people because language is the identity of a people without which they are lost; adding that this position is imperative, as languages are the vehicles which transmit cultures to others, and without indigenous languages, cultures are lost and a lost culture is a lost people.
Asked what she sees as challenges militating against the effective promotion of Nigeria indigenous languages, especially as it concerns women and youths, Dr. Onuoha identified the influence of Western and foreign languages, which seem to be subjugating Nigerian indigenous languages because many have mistaken these foreign languages to mean civilization.
Correcting that erroneous perception, she stated that, no language or culture is superior to another, because what is indigenous to a people is their civilization, and therefore urged all women, parents and the youths, that when they place value on their indigenous languages, taking pride in speaking and teaching one another instead of using English as the only language of communication in the home, then other people too would respect the indigenous languages and children will not see Nigerian indigenous languages as inferior to foreign languages.
Advising mothers on what to do to encourage their children to learn and speak their indigenous languages, the NICO Management Staffer informed that mothers should first and foremost understand the important place of an indigenous language as the transporter of cultural heritage and the need to promote and preserve them for generations yet unborn; and that they should be determined to educate their children about the relevance of understanding and speaking their indigenous languages; they should also create time to sit with their children at home and encourage them to learn these languages by speaking to them while they do domestic chores and explaining to them what is being said, as well as buying books of interest written in indigenous language for the children, reading and explaining such to them, thereby creating in the children the interest to learn such indigenous language(s).
On the role of the Nigerian government in promoting our indigenous languages, Onuoha noted that, the establishment of NICO is one of government’s responses to that role because the Institute has, as one of its mandates, the responsibility of not just promoting and preserving our indigenous languages, but harnessing Nigeria’s vast culture for national development.
According to her, in fulfilling that mandate, the Institute runs a one month long vacation Nigerian Indigenous Language Programme (NILP) in August, targeted at the youths, where several Nigerian indigenous languages, including, Hausa, Yoruba, Igbo, Izon, Tiv, Efik, Fulfulde, Gbagyi, Nupe, Urhobo, and Batonu, are taught across its six zonal offices, in Katsina, Adamawa, Bayelsa, Ondo, Imo and Kwara States, as well as in its headquarters in Abuja and Liaison Office, Lagos; just as the indigenous language programme is replicated in the Institute’s four state offices in, Oyo, Gombe, Enugu and Niger States.
At the prompting of the anchor person, Dr. (Mrs.) Regina Onuoha used the Igbo language to appeal to Igbo women and mothers across the country to embrace the culture of speaking and teaching the Igbo language to their children in order to promote and preserve the language and in essence the Igbo culture for generations to come.
This appeal was re-interpreted in various Nigerian indigenous languages by staffers of the Institute on her entourage: Mrs Sandra Kingsley-Omogiade used the Bini language from Edo State, Nicodemus Nanven Jonathan made the same appeal in Ngas language from Plateau State, while Arnold Elue used Ika language from Delta State to re-echo the same message.
Jonathan N. Nicodemus