By AUWAL AHMED IBRAHIM GORONYO
Dr. Walter Rodney in his six chapters’ non fiction book highlighted how Europe under-developed Africa and one of the cardinal negative impacts of colonial masters is the imposition of foreign languages on Africans in their educational system because Africa was in the same shoe of development with Europe before the stem engine age” Professor Idris Bugaje, 2020.
In most African countries the foreign languages are seen as treachery to knowledge while for Professor James Wathiango foreign languages to Africans is imperialism that is subverting the African nations and for that reason he changed his baptized name to Ngugi and discontinued writing in English for his Mother Tongue language of Gukuyi. To understand the impact of borrowed language, Babs Fafunwa the first Nigerian Professor in education conducted a research in the year 1989 to find out the effect of Mother Tongue in teaching and learning and at the end the research proved that Mother Tongue is the best language mechanism in impacting knowledge. It is also for this thematic paradigm Professor Idris Bugaje, Kaduna Polytechnic Rector reiterated in a lecture in Kaduna State University, Kaduna State to Nigeria government to overhaul the academic curricula of learning to suit the needs of the country.
Language is an important vehicle of disseminating information and impacting knowledge. Researches have proven that Mother Language is the easiest and accessible medium of teaching that facilitates quick understanding, comprehension and responses and for its importance UNESCO established International Mother Language Day’ to celebrate culture and linguistic diversity for sustainable society with the aim of promoting the languages and keeping them alive. The day was approved in 1999 with the effort of the Bangladesh students that took the streets of the country to have their Mother Tongue as their instructive language in school, the protest claimed the lives of four students but the effort was fruitful and the day is being celebrated in every year of 21st February.
Foreign languages are making much harm that good to African heritage in the field of science and technology and the hype and vogue the languages are creating among Africans are squashing the Africans identity, entity and also stagnating the Africas development. According to ‘This is Africa’ report it says, In a continent of 55 countries and over 2,000 languages, it is shocking that the official languages predominantly used are foreign languages.” Imposition of foreign language on Africa by the Westerners locked African science and technological conquest and ‘This is Africa further explained the detriment of foreign languages on Africans saying ‘It is even worse that the medium of instruction in learning institutions are foreign languages. The marginalization of indigenous languages left many of the African languages without a role to play’ in the field of knowledge. Looking at the position of foreign language in Nigeria, English Language has continue to divide the country in educational lines and scraping many languages. In Nigeria, there are almost ten languages that have been extinct; some of them are Ajawa, Basa-Gumna, Auyokawa, Gamo-Ningi, Kubi, Kpati, Mawa, Odut and Teshenawa.
“The diversity of cultures, languages and ethnic groups have been more of a source of division than unity across the continent, In 2012 the United Nations Educational Cultural and Scientific Organisation (UNESCO) predicted that the Igbo language which has a current population of 25 million speakers will be extinct by 2025.’ because English Language is the official language of the country. Nigeria is multilingual and because all the tribes embraced English Language the indigenous languages are diminishing and by predictions all the languages will extinct for English Language.
In the strength to save Nigeria languages and preserve the countrys identities the Executive Secretary of the National Institute for Cultural Orientation (NICO) of Nigeria, Associate Professor of Theatre and Cultural Studies at the Nasarawa State University, Keffi (NSUK). Barclays Foubiri Ayakoroma said the teaching of indigenous languages in tertiary institutions in Nigeria should be made compulsory in other to reduce the communication barrier in the country and to preserve the countrys languages. However, Governor Nasir Elrufai of Kaduna State is with the same opinion with Barclays to overhaul the educational sector of Nigeria. The governor stated this at the 4th inaugural lecture of the University of Medical Sciences (UNIMED), Ondo, titled: Transforming Nigerian Educational System: Looking Back and Looking Forward.” The governor expressed the need for the Federal Government to include indigenous languages in educational curricula to accelerate knowledge delivery and understanding in Nigeria schools.
Foreign languages of Portugal, French and England torn Africa apart from brotherhood and relations but for the importance of Mother Tongue many countries employ their indigenous languages to teach, Rwanda use Kinyarwanda, French, English and Swahili, Kenya use Swahili and English as its official languages, South Africa use Afrikaans, English, Zulu, Xhosa, Ndebele, Venda, Swati, Sotho, Northern Sotho, Tsonga and Tswana. Zimbabwe is the only country with highest 16 official languages that included the different main languages of Chewa, Chibarwe, Kalanga, Koisan, Nambya, Ndau, Ndebele, Shangani, Shona, sign language, Sotho, Tonga, Tswana, Venda, Xhosa and English while Eritrea is the only country in Africa that does not have official language when Nigeria the most giant country is left with English as it official language, a system that many elites posed as retrogressive system. A report by Katrin Gänsler a DW journalist reported in 2019 how English Language is threatening Nigeria native languages in a report titled ‘English threatens Nigeria’s native languages’. Professor Wale Adegbite a lecturer of English Language at the Obafemi Awolowo University says scholars mainly see language as a means of communication, but there is a stronger link between development and communication. Adegbite feels it is bad for Nigeria to continue using only English as its official Language. He added that the overuse of English has led to an underuse of the indigenous Nigerian languages which is why there is a collective language failure” in all ramification of advancement. Many linguists have emphasized that a national language is vital to a country’s development. Even though English is the national language in Nigeria, national development will not occur as long as English remains its high status, (kwintessential blog).
The Federal Government of Nigeria in 2017 through the Minister of Science and Technology, Dr Ogbonnaya Onu in collaboration with the Minister of Education Malam Adamu Adamu disclosed during a Joint Ministerial Committee meeting that the Federal Government has prepared to start teaching Mathematics and Science in Local Languages and the Minister added that the government will also write text books in the local languages that would enhance teaching comprehension and practice but the system is yet to key in.
There is a vital need for Nigeria to make the main native languages its official languages with the inclusion of the English Language to serve as the National Language and the universal Language. This will break the language barrier in the political arena, administration and places of work because there are many people with skill and ideas but the use of English Language is hindering them to give their contribution in the development of the country.
Media outlets most especially the press, Parents, teachers and concerned citizens in Nigeria have not relent in their effort in enlightening the government in the prospect of using indigenous languages in teaching like many African nations because the system will yield better results for the country. Now is the time for the Federal Government of Nigeria to fulfill its promise of teaching Mathematics and Science in schools for the benefit of all with the hope by next year this dream Will come true.
Auwal Ahmed Ibrahim Goronyo Lecturer, Mass Communication,Kaduna Polytechnic, Kadunaauwalgoronyo@gmail.com