Literacy In Mother-Tongue Key To Nigeria’s Devt- Prof Okebukola

Government has been urged to establish a national working committee to discuss and debate the shape and design of literacy policy, pedagogy and curriculum at all levels of education.

It was also proposed that government should embark on language policy enlightenment campaign on the mass media to educate parents on the benefits of introducing literacy in the mother-tongue.

This was part of the recommendations given by the Professor of Language Education, Lagos State University, Prof. Foluso Okebukola while delivering the university’s 70th inaugural lecture titled: “Lights Dawns On Literacy, Illiteracy, Alliteracy And E- Literacy on Wednesday.

According to her government should alsoorganize conferences and seminars for teachers to allay their fears, allowed to air their views on the logistics and modalities for implementing the language policy.

“The nation should adopt model of emergent level reading programme designed to focus on the needs of the learners, recruit teachers of indigenous languages to teach in primary schools because many of them are wasting away for lack ofemployment and encourage them to stay on the job by being paid “policy implementation allowance” to facilitate the literacy delivery programme in the country,” she added.

This she said became necessary because students should be given the option of a genuine choice to study in the language they understand best from secondary classes to the tertiary levels thus supporting the development of functional literacy.

She however said that it is pertinent to observe that in most schools both private and public, the use of mother-tongue or language of immediate community as medium of instruction is not complied with, as the elite do not see any good in the idea of teaching in the local language.

The education expert explained that the philosophy of the Nigerian nation and the premium placed on literacy education is determined by its pluralistic state. “It is stated in the National Policy that: The medium of instruction in the primary school shall be the language of the immediate environment for the first three years, during this period, English shall be taught as a subject. From the fourth year, English shall progressively be used as a medium of instruction and the language of the immediate environment and French and Arabic shall be taught as subjects.”

She said that it is worthy of note that except in the homes of a few elite, the indigenous language or the mother tongue is the dominant language of communication in Nigeria. “A gap is therefore created when a child leaves home for school and discovers a radical difference in school from what transpires at home, especially in the language of communication and instruction.”

The lecturer added that the bridge linking the home with the school is strengthened when the children are taught social and cultural studies in their own language, with the home experiences and the mores of the society being brought to class.

“The use of mother tongue as a medium of instruction throughout the primary school would appear to restore normalcy into the situation because psychologically, children are able to identify with activities at school having seen their home transported to school via their language, such student are therefore ready to learn and absorb.”

She added that literacy education is worthy of attention because it is the bedrock for national development, it lowers poverty level and elevates the living standards and the quality of life of Nigerians therefore it should be handled with utmost care.

Okebukola explained further that education practically prepares learners for a task which is first, their personal development and second, for the development of their community “hence people’s performance depends mainly on the quality of their education. With high quality education, they will perform their task well and in contrast, should the education be faulty, the performance will follow suit.”

On reading culture, the inaugural lecturer suggested that at secondary and tertiary institutions, there should be the introduction of newspaper and magazines into the library, virtual libraries should be introduced, there should be reading clubs, reading clinics, introduction of information technology and publication of students’ writing.

For teachers, she said teachers at the preparatory level should lay emphasis on reading readiness skills and incorporate psychological activities within existing reading instruction.

“Teachers in upper basic classrooms must be empowered with adjunct strategies supplementary to the basal readers currently in use and this include teaching the affective aspects of reading, developing metacognitive skills; fostering discourse knowledge and improving vocabulary knowledge among others.”

For higher education teachers, the expert said reading instruction in tertiary institutions should encompass a shared concept of what it means to be a reader in the 21st century, pedagogic practices which acknowledge and develop diverse reader identities and new social practices that encourage choice and students’ ownership of their own reading pleasure.

To parents, she said illiterate and semi-illiterate parents need to be educated on the importance of speaking the indigenous languages to their children as they encourage and trust English Language teachers to teach good English.