The Lagos State government has been hailed for its decision to make the Yoruba language compulsory from primary to junior secondary schools. An educationist and public affairs analyst, Mr Kayode Adebayo has described the move as the right step in the right direction because when you go to many homes nowadays, Yoruba has been relegated to the background such that virtually everywhere, English language predominates in everything, and with this, the Yoruba culture is getting lost. The major vehicle for cultural transmission is the language and wherever the language of the people is relegated to the background, the culture of that people is on the way to extinction. So as part of efforts to restore lost Yoruba cultural values as well as preserve the custom, language and heritage of the people, the Lagos State government has expressed its readiness to make the teaching of Yoruba language compulsory in all public schools in the state.
Mr Kayode Adebayo spoke further “I think the government has just woken to the reality that what the Yoruba people hold sacred and cherish, all those aspects of Yoruba culture that make the average Yoruba person an ‘Omoluabi’ become lost if you allow your language to be relegated. So making the study of Yoruba compulsory in schools will go a long way in trying to restore, not all, but a bit of the glory of the culture back to the people.” On what should be done to arrest the fall in the standard of education generally, Mr Adebayo says the indigenous language is about the first thing that should be given the needed place of prominence, Now that reminds me of a passage from the late Dr Tai Solarin, the great educationist, in one of his books, a mathematics teacher was telling a dull student to look at an angle but he did not see or understood. The teacher kept on telling him to look at the angle. It was only when the teacher had to pronounce ‘Angulu’ that the boy understood him. “Can’t you see this Angulu?” The teacher pronounced an English word in a Yoruba form and with that it sank straight into the learner and he was able to learn efficiently.
Making the teaching of Yoruba language compulsory will improve the standard of education. There will be an improvement in the teaching and learning process. The problem is that if the teacher has not taught, the learner has not learnt. And if you continue to speak English all the time and you are not convinced about the concept that are meaningful to the learner, then no learning has taken place. The language of instruction is English, and that is due to the universatility of the language. It is threatening to actually dominate. There are concepts in Yoruba language that cannot be expressed in English or even interpreted.
For example, what is the English word for ‘IGUNNUNKO’ or OMOROGUN? . These are just minor examples. There are more serious examples that cannot be efficiently expressed in English, the language of instruction. Therefore when the shift is made to the indigenous language, I am sure the standard of education will be raised. The time is now. Speaking at a stakeholders’ forum organised by the Lagos State House of Assembly at Academy Hall, Agidingbi, Ikeja Lagos in June, Governor Akinwunmi Ambode had stated that the teaching of Yoruba Language as a subject in all public schools in the state, from primary to junior secondary schools, would be made compulsory so as to enable the region regain its lost cultural values and enable children to be in tune with the norms and cultural values embedded in their language. He said it is important for growing up children not only to learn the language of their environment, but also the culture and way of life of their people, adding that it is very important for every Yoruba child to be able to speak the language fluently as well as acquire adequate knowledge on customs and tradition of the tribe. . The government equally noted that the imposition of western culture and language on Nigerian children has done a lot of damage to the rich local cultural heritage of the people, adding that Yoruba sons and daughter are daily losing the cultural values inherent in their language.
Governor Ambode, who was represented at the event by his Deputy, Dr. Idiat Oluranti Adebule, commended members of the State House of Assembly for their efforts at ensuring that the language is not relegated to the background, stressing that their endeavour would further help the state government in the implementation of its policy on the teaching of Yoruba language. According to him, “We expect that the House would help to make appropriate legislations that would back up government effort at making Yoruba language a compulsory subject in all public schools in the state.”
While noting that previous efforts at making the teaching of the language compulsory in all schools were frustrated by proprietors of private schools, Ambode expressed optimism that the LAHA will do the needful to make the dream a reality.
Comrade Kayode Adebayo (NCE, B.ED, M.A)
Immediate past PRO (ASUSS), Academic Staff Union of Secondary Schools,
Ogun State, Nigeria. 08061668690