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Groups canvass policy on promotion of indigenous languages


President-General of Ohaneze Ndigbo, Chief John Nwodo

Renowned scholar and president of Ndigbo Lagos Foundation, Prof. Anya O. Anya, has advocated the need for government to formulate a national policy to encourage the vigorous use of indigenous languages. 

He spoke at the 2018 UNESCO International Mother Language Day, organised by Youth Orientation for Development (YOD). It was held last Wednesday in Lagos.

Anya noted that the policy is imperative in order for local languages not to go into extinction through the onslaught of globalisation.

It would be recalled that in 2012, UNESCO predicted the extinction of Igbo language by 2025 following its classification, as one of the endangered languages in the world.

With the theme ‘Igbo Language will not Go Extinct,’ he further stated that government, through the Ministry of Education, should identify the languages that are going into extinction and ensure that they are revived.

He added that government should also learn from the Jewish state of Israel, who he said were scattered all over the world, but made the language compulsory in order for Hebrew language not to go extinct. He also tasked older people to teach the young ones their languages, observing such action would make it impossible for any language in the country to be extinct. 

On his part, YOD president, Mr. Emmanuel Ejiogu noted that the essence of organising the programme was to raise awareness on the need to promote the use of Igbo language through the various communication channels and media, especially for Igbo children. He canvased that Igbo literature, films and music should be encouraged and promoted.

According to Ejiogu, “We are not only particular about only the Igbo language, but other rich languages that make up the entity called Nigeria.

We are ready to collaborate with and support all the socio cultural groups who are concerned with the promotion and preservation of our diverse cultures because this is one of the ideals of everywhere, in education and administrative systems, in cultural expressions and the media, cyberspace and trade.” 

UNESCO celebrates International Mother Language Day (IMLD) on February 21, 2017 under the theme to foster sustainable development in which learners must have access to education in their mother tongue and in other languages.

It is through the mastery of the first language or mother tongue that the basic skills of reading, writing and numeracy are acquired. Local languages, especially minority and indigenous, transmit cultures, values and traditional knowledge, thus playing an important role in promoting sustainable futures.

In a related development, Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, has advocated for the speaking of Igbo as the official language at every public function involving Ndigbo. The organisation also called on the governors of the South East to make the teaching and learning of Igbo language a compulsory subject in the school system.

The body said it was ready to embark on projects in partnership with other organisations to pursue the cause of advancing Igbo culture and tradition. It made the advocacy while reflecting on activities of UNESCO International Mother Language Day (IMLD) 2018 usually celebrated on February 21 every year.

In a statement signed by the President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief Nnia Nwodo, the organisation further advocated for wearing of Igbo attires by government officials on special days, while Igbo
language should be made the official language at every sitting of the various state houses of assembly in the South East zone.

The statement, signed by the Special Adviser (Media), Chief Emeka Attamah, added, “Igbo state governors should ensure that special days are set aside for the wearing of purely Igbo attires for those in government offices and the use of Igbo language in carrying out legislative proceedings in their state assemblies on such days.”

The organisation also enjoined governments of all Igbo speaking states to build cultural or arts centres to help in preserving Igbo cultural artifacts, as well as encourage their state council of arts and culture to perform optimally.

It also called for the harmonization of the Igbo festival of New Yam celebration henceforth to hold on a common date annually, stating it would ginger unity among the Igbo race and enable Igbo leaders to cultivate the habit of speaking with one voice on national issues.

In this article:
Indigenous Languages
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