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Mother tongue… Lagos lawmakers set learning pace for school children

Lagos Assembly

Over the years, scholars have stressed the importance of mother tongue, noting that it is imperative for a child’s development and grasping of the basic elements of teaching and learning. International organisations like UNESCO, and especially UN General Assembly’s Convention on Child’s Rights have stressed the need to educate children, at least, at primary level using mother tongue as medium of instruction. It argues that researches have shown that mother tongue-based schooling significantly improves learning.

This informed Lagos State lawmaker’s resolve to pass into law the bill mandating the use of mother tongue into the state’s education system. This was the concern of the lawmakers at their recent plenary. The lawmakers, who submitted that indigenous language would serve as a yardstick to promote the African culture, also noted that it would bring development.

The plenary session witnessed the second reading of the bill seeking to promote speaking of Yoruba language in the state’s institutions from primary education to higher level. During the reading of the bill, Speaker of the House, Hon. Mudashiru Obasa, lamented that some traditional rulers in the country shun their indigenous languages to please visitors whenever they come around. He also noted that it was important for schools to teach pupils and students in both public and private schools indigenous languages to preserve the Nigerian culture.

Obasa, who frowned at the popular description of Yoruba or any Nigerian language as vernacular in schools, said that the way local languages are perceived cause a lot of setback in the country at large.

He said: “They used to regard Yoruba as vernacular in schools in our days and the situation is still the same today. Many children don’t know how to greet people in Yoruba culture. Our language teaches respect, which is not the case in some foreign languages. Whoever forgets his or her language will be forgotten. The bill covers public and private schools as well as organisations and companies in the state.”

Chairman, House Committee on Education, Hon Olanrewaju Ogunyemi, who presented the bill, noted that the National Policy on Education (NPE), which makes speaking of indigenous languages in the country compulsory, is not observed. He said if the bill received necessary attention, it would be of benefit to all and sundry.

“If the Bill is passed into law, it would make the translation of all the laws of the state into Yoruba language easy, and it would also promote our culture. Language is our means of identity.”

On his part, Hon. Yinka Ogundimu, from Agege Constituency 2, said the promotion of the language would bring a lot of progress to the society, adding that school children would learn easily if they were taught in their mother tongues.

Also contributing, Hon. Abiodun Tobun, from Epe Constituency 1, stated that Yoruba culture and language are being eliminated, adding, “We must not allow our language and culture to go into extinction. Some students are punished for speaking Yoruba language in schools. We must pass the Bill into law and Yoruba should be made prerequisite language for admission into higher institutions.”

Titled ‘Promotion and Preservation of the Use of Yoruba Language in Lagos State and for Connected Purposes,’ makes it compulsory for all schools in the State to include the teaching of Yoruba as a core subject at all levels. It is compulsory for all tertiary institutions in the state to incorporate the use of Yoruba language into the General Nigeria Studies (GNS) courses.

“The use of Yoruba shall be an acceptable means of communication between individuals, establishments, corporate entities and government in the state if so desired by the concerned. The state government shall translate all the laws of Lagos State into Yoruba Language. Notwithstanding the provisions of any other Law, at least a credit in Yoruba Language shall be acceptable as part of qualifying requirements into any tertiary institutions in the state.

“From the commencement of this Law, it shall be an offence to discriminate against any person on the basis of the use of Yoruba Language in the workplace, schools, organisation and social places; any person who contravenes the provision of subsection (1) of this Section commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine of N500, 000 for an individual or N 2,000,000 in case of a corporation.

“Any school in the state which fails to comply with the provisions of Section 2 of this Law commits an offence and is liable on violation to issuance of warning; and on subsequent violation be closed down and also pay a fine of N500,000” it read in part.

Ibadan-based Executive Director, African Languages Technology Initiative, Professor Tunde Adegbola, said despite the advantages the use of mother tongue provides for every society, it is unfortunate that Nigerians prefer to communicate in English, a foreign language, noting, “Since the adoption of the foreign language, English has become the language of opportunity; it has become the language of official job, the language of administration, the language of education and everybody tries to make his children speak English language, not knowing that a lot more important and fundamental things are already compromised.”



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