Since the last time I wrote about saving our indigenous languages on GOING, GOING, GOING….GONE? – Vernacular and our native tongue, I have had to research on practical ways schools could participate in safeguarding our indigenous languages and identity. This is one of those projects that is dear to my heart hence my excitement to share a few suggestions that schools could practice in promoting our mother tongue with The Learning Craft readers.
Before that, studies are increasingly showing that we learn easier and better in our mother tongue. However, it has to be taught in school, which is not what we see for many of Nigeria’s minority languages. It may seem difficult to achieve but schools can play a major role in promoting multilingual education in small but strong measures. All languages have a system of sounds, words and sentences that can adequately communicate the content of education and culture.
The International Mother Tongue Day has been celebrated every year since February 2000 to promote linguistic and cultural diversity and multilingualism by UNESCO. Speaking our mother tongue is a right to education that we must not let slip out of our hands as many of our local languages are being threatened by the more dominant foreign languages.
Why is it so important?
How many of you think aloud in your mother tongue? If you were taught in your language, you might have not had to struggle through those difficult topics. I am not suggesting that our official language be thrown out; but that a multilingual education could have changed many stories. People simply learn better in a language that is familiar – their mother tongue!
Nigeria is a country with loads of cultural and language diversity. Many of our languages are endangered. Getting educated in our local languages however diverse they are; will strengthen the cohesion of our societies and build a better educated populace. The task is not an easy one – but schools can play a huge part in promoting and celebrating our mother tongues to protect our identity.
By setting a day aside to educate students through a themed ‘Mother Tongue Day Celebration’ monthly. The objective is to promote linguistic diversity, preserve our cultural identity, ensure ‘education for all’ and protect our languages from extinction.
I suggest that prelude to the day of celebration, students are tasked by teachers to research (in conjunction with their parents) on various aspects of a local language on a monthly basis. Using a thematic approach, this may include cultural aspects of dance, marriage, festivals OR food and fashion. Their work will be presented on the ‘Mother Tongue Day’. It will be a day to gain knowledge and exposure to the use of other indigenous languages in the most simple form of communication.
Schools could also adopt the use of randomly selected language for greetings. Every month, a language is chosen as the ‘language of the month’. It would be used as mode of greeting and salutation among teachers and students in and out of the classroom.
There is a lot more I have planned out as this is a sneak peek of what can be done.
Here are some more suggestions from UNESCO.
- Do pupils know that many children in their schools may have mother language(s) that are different from the languages used in their schools?
- Teachers can get these children to introduce themselves and talk about their families and their cultures, and teach a little of their mother language to other children.
- They can read poetry, tell a story or sing a song in their mother language. Paintings and drawings with captions in mother languages can be displayed inside and outside schools.
Language is a symbol of continuity; and identity (in the mother tongue) is one of the greatest binding forces of unity and integration.
If we can deliver early childhood education and primary education all across Nigeria in our various mother tongues, we will also achieve equity in education, better opportunities and education for all.