The Honourable Minister of State for Education, Professor Anthony Anwuka, has stated that promoting the use of our mother tongue will encourage cultural traditions in Nigeria because indigenous languages are the most potent instruments for preserving and developing any people’s cultural heritage.

Professor Anwuka stated this while addressing participants during the International Mother Language Day 2016 celebration, with the theme, “Quality Education, Languages of Instruction and Learning Outcomes,” held at the Conference Hall, 2nd Floor Podium, Federal Ministry of Education, Federal Secretariat Complex, Phase I, Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory, under the Chairmanship of former Minister of State for Education, Professor Jerry Agada.

While appreciating the initiative of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in declaring 21st of February every year, as the International Mother Language Day, in commemoration of the massacre of Benghali speaking people of Indonesia for defending their mother tongue, the Minister reiterated the need to encourage the promotion of linguistic diversity and multilingual education in the various aspects of our societal life, especially in the home-front and in schools, so to create a better awareness of linguistic and cultural traditions among Nigerians.

Professor Anwuka informed that if adhered to, this awareness will inspire understanding, friendship, tolerance and dialogue among peoples and cultures, and in so doing, ensure that our indigenous languages play significant roles in conflict resolution, which ultimately will promote peaceful co-existence among the various ethnic nationalities in Nigeria.

The Minister reiterated the Ministry’s efforts in ensuring quality in the teaching if Nigerian indigenous languages at various levels of our educational system towards enabling them to become veritable instruments for acquiring competences in life so that learners can have competences to function well in society.

However, Prof. Anwuka decried the threat of extinction facing our indigenous languages due to the remarkable decline in their usage, noting that the youths, especially those residing in urban areas are the worst culprits, as they hardly communicate in their mother tongue, adding that of serious concern is the sharp drop in the number of those who are able to read and write in their indigenous languages.

To arrest this decline, the Minister noted that the Ministry is not resting on it oars as it is collaborating with some relevant stakeholders, like NATCOM-UNESCO, State Ministries of Education (SMoE), Linguistic Association of Nigeria (LAN), Language Associations, Indomie Noodles and other NGOs, thus making significant progress in creating awareness on the need to preserve and promote Nigerian indigenous languages.

Earlier in her welcome address, the Director/Secretary-General, Nigerian National Commission for UNESCO, Mrs. M. O. Anene-Maidoh, had reiterated the importance of Mother Tongue, as a language of instruction for inclusive and quality education, noting that as the first language of instruction in the early years of schooling, as articulated in the National Policy on Education, it should be encouraged because research has shown that the use of the mother tongue as a language of instruction has positive impact on quality education and outcomes.

She therefore charged participants, students and Nigerians, in general, to understand that our indigenous languages are very important to us as a people because they are the vehicles through which we communicate our music and dance, as well as for the transmission of our values, oral traditions and other forms of intangible cultural heritage.

Mrs. Anene-Maidoh further informed that though UNESCO had predicted that some indigenous languages were endangered and facing the threat of extinction, the commemoration of the International Mother Language Day provides a platform to create awareness on the need to take action towards preserving our indigenous languages, as well as promoting our cultural diversity.

On his part, in ensuring the preservation of our indigenous languages, the Executive Secretary of the National Institute for Cultural Orientation (NICO), Professor Barclays Foubiri Ayakoroma, while presenting his goodwill message through his Director, Orientation and Cultural Affairs Department, Mr. Alex Omijie, noted that NICO is delighted with the commemoration of the International Mother Language Day, stating that the Institute is proud to associate with the celebration because it appreciates the place of our indigenous languages in national development.

His words: iH“As an institute we have taken it upon ourselves to have a programme called the Nigerian Indigenous Language Training Programme (NILP), which holds every August during the long vacation period for students in primary and secondary schools and a weekend version, which is targeted at workers and business people, to come and learn various Nigerian indigenous languages.” 

The NICO Chie Executive stated further that this is necessary because the Institute has observed that our indigenous languages are dying by the day as a result of non usage, for “a language will surely die if there are no users,” he noted, and that the Institute is promoting the use of these languages so that they do not go into extinction.

According to him, NICO started the language programme with three languages but presently, about thirteen indigenous languages are being taught during its long vacation Nigerian Indigenous Language Programme (NILP), assuring that the number will increase as the programme progresses. 

Speaking further, Prof. Ayakoroma appealed to everyone present that, as the Nigeria joins the world to celebrate the important occasion of the International Mother Language Day, they should take advantage of the platform that NICO has provided to learn the indigenous languages, informing participants that the Institute teaches the indigenous languages free of charge as part of its mandate of harnessing our culture for national development.

A major attraction at the occasion was that NICO Cultural Troupe provided artistic entertainment, which thrilled the august gathering.

Jonathan Nicodemus

Corporate Affairs