Saving The Yoruba Language From Extinction Through Education

The fading off of Yoruba language has been a serious source of concern for the stakeholders of the race, hence, the need for proactive measures to reverse the situation. SOLOMON ODENIYI writes on the efforts taking so far by the government of the State of Osun through the State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB) on…”
Moroti Olatujoye
July 13, 2018 10:49 am

The fading off of Yoruba language has been a serious source of concern for the stakeholders of the race, hence, the need for proactive measures to reverse the situation. SOLOMON ODENIYI writes on the efforts taking so far by the government of the State of Osun through the State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB) on the move to bring back the fading language and culture.

Language is one of a race’s most significant components. It is the most powerful instruments of preserving and developing both tangible and intangible heritage. How important it has been said to be, it has been estimated that approximately 10,000 spoken languages have existed. Today, only about 6,000 languages are still spoken, more than half of these languages especially in this part of the world are faced with the risk of being forgotten forever.

A pointer to this  was the address of the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, at the 2017 Annual Round Table on Cultural Orientation, jointly organized by the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture and the National Institute for Cultural Orientation, NICO, in Kaduna where he stated that situation reports shows the country’s indigenous languages are endangered and could go into extinction in no distant future, as there is a remarkable decline in the usage of our indigenous languages by  children and youth who cannot read or write in their mother tongue.

Corroborating this was an alarm raised by a professor of Yoruba Language at the University of Ilorin, Olalere Adeyemi that about 5,000 Languages   including Yoruba which are spoken in Africa are going into extinction.

However, several studies have shown a working relationship between education and languages. The Researchers have established how languages used in schools are important factors in whether or not children succeed in education. One of such is a research by CBF, which estimates that 44% of languages spoken by more than 10,000 people are not used as languages of instruction in education. They submitted that language that children have used from birth – their mother tongue or first language – offers the best chance of educational success.

Aside this, in the same report, the body described education as the base of the future of every society and stressed that  its introduction into education system of a nation is the only way of protecting the culture, values, and languages of the people of a country from going into extinction .

Similarly, research has it that no matter how brilliant one is, one uses one mother tongue to ruminate on a particular thing before one expresses such a thing either in the mother tongue or any other language except those who were born deaf and dump. This suggests that if one does not have a sound knowledge of one’s mother tongue, one may likely encounter difficulty to embark on good deductive reasoning.

The United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) Director-General, Irina Bokova underlined the basic principle of children learning in a language they speak. He said, “With a new global education agenda that prioritizes quality, equity and lifelong learning for all, it is essential to encourage full respect for the use of mother language in teaching and learning, and to promote linguistic diversity. Inclusive language education policies will not only lead to higher learning achievements, but contribute to tolerance, social cohesion and, ultimately, peace.”

Consequently, the federal government of Nigeria showed concerns for the plight of Nigerian languages when it sought to encourage their teaching and learning in schools across the federation by introducing the National Policy on Education. Section 1 (8) of the policy emphasises that “the Federal Government shall take official interest in, and make policy pronouncements on the teaching of the indigenous languages, instead of concerning itself solely with English Language”.

Also, the policy stipulates that every pupil must in the course of primary school education study two languages, namely, his/her mother tongue, or any other indigenous language of wider communication in his/her area of domicile alongside English Language. The policy also requires that students in Junior Secondary School (JSS), (which is of three-year duration) must study three languages, namely, mother tongue, or an indigenous language of wider communication in his/her area of domicile, alongside one of the three major indigenous languages in the country, namely, Hausa, Igbo, and Yoruba, provided the language chosen is distinct from the child’s mother tongue, while it stated that in Senior Secondary School (SSS), a Nigerian child, must study two languages: an indigenous language and English Language.

Understanding the fact that lies in the Yoruba language; our rich culture, history, traditions, and values, the Government of the State of Osun, State Universal Education Board (SUBEB) and other collaborating bodies in the state have been taking deliberate and concrete steps to protect the Yoruba language in the face of extinction by enforcing policies on education with regard to learning and teaching of the language in schools across the state. Those policies include;

ASA Day in schools.

ASA DAY, an annual event which was introduced two years ago is a programme primarily designed to discover and showcase talents and cultural potentials among the pupils of elementary schools and students of high schools in a bid to promote and sustain the rich Yoruba cultures, values and traditions.

Pupils of grades 1 to 9 in public schools are the target of the cultural project which since inception has gained plaudits from the movers and shakers in the state and beyond. In attendance had been stakeholders in education and lovers of arts and culture across the state.

The event has had Ijo-Ibile, Iyere-Ifa, Ayo-Olopon, Ewi, Ijala, Ekun-Iyawo, Egungun display, Ere Osupa, Ijakadi, Okiti tita and Irun Didi displays among traditional games and events for contest with prizes won by participating pupils.

Also, this has brought about teaching students in Yoruba  language in schools in the state of Osun which has  ensured that the pupils can grow up to produce and enjoy great works in a native language.

Speaking recently on the introduction of ASA DAY, the Permanent Secretary of Osun SUBEB, Alhaji Fatai Kolawole noted that the introduction of the programme is to make the Yoruba stand its ground amongst other indigenous languages fading away.

Students’ He said: “We don’t want a situation where our children won’t be able to speak our language or a situation where we would have to invite the foreign teachers to come and teach our language. As a responsible government, we feel we should not relent on any effort in ensuring the teaching of Yoruba in our schools. The Yorubas are people with history and we have noticed that over the years, we are seen to be neglecting our traditions which is bad for the future of the race and the economy. We don’t want it to die, that is why we have introduced it at that level”

He added that the effort has helped improved the performance of pupils as well as brought about improved attendance of pupils.

He said, “The students’ performances have improved tremendously, going by the WAEC result in the last six years, it showed the improvement as highlighted by the Ministry of Education and the examination board. At elementary and middle school levels, it has improved, as our children are winning Laurels in competitions and in joint state examinations for grades 3,4,5,6 and the unified exams too for grades 7 and 8 and Basic Education Certification examination. More importantly the pupils have been staying in school”.

The Yoruba Talking Pen

The introduction of the talking pen configured for the sole use of the Yoruba language has been described by many as unprecedented in the history of the race.

This will help ease the teaching of Yoruba by the teachers as well as the assimilation by the pupils who would be benefiting from this.

“This will help to engage the students in this global era, we must maximize what comes with technology. It also allows them to have fun while they learn. You must agree with me that there are lots of distractions these days for our children, but with this, it reduces it to the barest minimum because as the pen is talking, they are learning which will stimulate their attention, “the SUBEB Permanent Secretary explained.

On his part, the Chairman, state Universal Basic Education Board, Prince Felix Awofisayo during the flag off ceremony of talking pens/ story book and distribution of instructional materials to Elementary and middle schools in the state noted that the introduction of the talking pen and purchase of instructional materials for use in schools has been the priority of the state government to be supplied to schools every academic term as a result of its importance to learning

“ The distribution of the Yoruba talking pens and story books to schools are parts of the efforts of SUBEB aimed at addressing deficiencies in academic  activities in some schools as noticed  in some pupils’ inability to read and write fluently in both elementary and middle schools,” the SUBEB boss added.

Awofisayo assured the governor, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola that efforts would be redoubled  at quality assurance through improved reading skills monitoring and evaluation activities to make his education goal for the state a reality.

He allayed fears on the maintenance of the gadgets, saying mechanism has been put in place to make sure they are well cared for, while enjoining the pupils and schools to make the best use of the materials for the purposes for which they are meant for.

Translation of Major textbooks from English to Yoruba

At this year’s ASA Day in April, held at the Ataoja High School, the Osun SUBEB chairman, Prince Awofisayo hinted that efforts are in top gear for the translation of  major  subjects offered by pupils of elementary and middle schools  from English language to Yoruba language.

When this is completed, it would aid the pupils to easily transmit the knowledge inherent in major subjects as well as steering interest of a large number of pupils with little or no interest in some subjects. Also, through studying these materials, students will not only gain communicative proficiency in the language, but also a great understanding of the diverse literary and cultural traditions that make Yoruba a fascinatingly unique language among others.

Yoruba language with over 25 million speakers, spoken among other languages, in Nigeria, Benin, and Togo in Brazil, Sierra Leone, northern Ghana and Cuba will be saved from extinction if other South western states government can demonstrate a similar gesture being spearheaded by the Osun government.


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