Stakeholders in the education sector recently lent their voices to Lagos state government’s recent move to perpetuate the Yoruba language. Ambrose Nnaji reports.
Yoruba parents have been advised to speak the indigenous Yoruba language to their children more, to enable them develop competence in it. They should also impart on them the culture, especially how to behave in public, how to dress well and respect for elders.
At a recent event organised for secondary schools in Education District III, Lagos, it was noted that the Yoruba language is on a free fall to extinction, hence the urgent need for parents and guardians to wake up to the responsibility of teaching their children the language.
The Tutor General and Permanent Secretary of the district, Margret Solarin expressed concern that children are no longer interested in speaking the indigenous language but blamed parents for failing in their duties.
The occasion featured an exhibition, where pupils identified local objects in their local Yoruba names.
Solarin warned parents not to allow what she described as civilization to take away their language, citing the example of countries like China and Russia, that speak their languages. She added that anyone willing to study in these countries must first learn their languages.
Stressing that language is culture, Solarin said: “Parents let’s speak our indigenous language to our children. Speak Yoruba language to your children in your home and warn them not to answer you in English….
Speaking exclusively to The Nation, she seized the occasion to disseminate the information that the teaching and learning of the Yoruba language is now compulsory among students in the state. It will be recalled that the Lagos State government recently passed a law making the use of the language part of requirement for assessment for both primary and post primary school students in the state.
“It is also to promote the language among the students; the Yoruba language is going into extinction and we must not pretend as if we are not aware.”
Going forward, she said the children will be having competitions in Yoruba, possibly as a yearly event, to enhance interest and competence in the language and help them perform better in the language during internal and external examinations.
Chairman, Nigerian Union of Teachers (NUT), Lagos State, Segun Raheem, said all efforts relating to the improvement of indigenous language in the state must be upheld. He noted the best way to develop education is when culture is developed, arguing that you cannot develop your culture without developing your language.
Representative of the Lagos State Deputy Governor, Sulaiman Ajayi maintained language and culture were still relevant, urging parents to make sure they continually teach their children the language. “Parents must make sure their children know how to speak the language very well and imbibe the culture which is part of the language.”
In her contribution, renowned professor, of Philosophy and Executive Director, Center for African Culture and Developent (CEFACAD) Sophie Oluwole said unless you speak your language you cannot know your culture. According to her, our knowledge, culture and tradition is our language
“There is something important about your language; if you don’t speak your language, how could you know your culture? Every culture is expressed in the language. Teach the children your culture, and you can study the western culture for comparison”, she added.
The Assistant National Secretary, Association of Yoruba Language Teachers in Nigeria, Adeyemi Aderemi, who teaches Yoruba at Epe Girls Junior High School noted that Yoruba language teachers in schools in the state are not adequate to achieve the government initiative, adding that this poses a very great challenge for schools.
Notwithstanding the new law, he said “without those who will enforce it, it will amount to nothing.”
Giving kudos to the Lagos State government for the new law, Aderemi said, “It is the language of the environment, you must learn it and study it. With the law, it has become the language that you can even transact business with; it is a plus for us as Yoruba language teachers….”
He said the just concluded competition witnessed the gathering of the best heads from the various schools, stressing that it can only get better.
Member, Lagos State House of Assembly, representing Oshodi/Isolo Constituency 11, Jude Idimogu commended the Lagos state government for the initiative, adding that the idea will promote the Yoruba language and culture. He however urged other ethnic groups to emulate the initiative.
Idimogu, who is also a member of the Education Committee that organised the programme, said there was no end to learning. “The point is for us to know that language is the key. You should buy the idea of promoting the Yoruba language in particular, so that people can express themselves particularly in the vernacular language.
“I look forward to seeing every other tribe doing the same thing.”
A student of the Army Children Senior High School, Alara Rebecca observed that most of her age-mates don’t want to hear anything about Yoruba language, because they believe the language has no impact on their carrier.