Nigeria Has A New Language Policy But Who Does It Help?

December 1, 2022

On November 30, 2022, the Federal Executive Council (FEC) approved a new national language policy. The gist of the policy is Nigerian students from primary one to six must be taught only in their mother tongue. 

Nigeria Has A New Language Policy But Who Does It Help?

According to the Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, the chosen native language will be the dominant one spoken in the community. When the policy is implemented, Nigerian students won’t use the English language until the junior secondary school level.

Who asked for this?

The government is implementing this policy to promote and preserve our culture, as some of it is already lost. 

Nigeria Has A New Language Policy But Who Does It Help?

Although this policy appears to be a step in the right direction, Nigeria has over 600 indigenous languages. So, what are the implications of this policy?

It may cause confusion

Nigeria is a diverse country and people, regardless of their tribes or language, settle down in different parts of the country. It’s normal to see Igalas in the West or Igbos in the North. But with this new policy, is an Igala boy in Ogun State supposed to learn Yoruba to understand what he’s being taught? Doesn’t this already put him at a disadvantage despite his abilities? 

Nigeria Has A New Language Policy But Who Does It Help?

Students will thrive

Some children, unlike others, speak and understand their native tongue even more than the coloniser’s language. This new policy gives  them a chance to shine. 

Nigeria Has A New Language Policy But Who Does It Help?

Subjects that have always seemed alien to them will suddenly make more sense, and they can finally feel more comfortable and perform better in their studies.

A headache for the parents

Many Nigerian parents are particular about their children’s spoken English because it’s proof they’re not wasting the school fees. But now, the government is going to turn their world around with this new policy. 

Nigeria Has A New Language Policy But Who Does It Help?

They’ll probably have to pay for after-school lessons for their children to understand English before secondary school.

Even more headache for the teachers

As already noted, people of different tribes live and work in other parts of the country, including teachers. So should teachers of other tribes be allowed to teach students with the bits and pieces they know of the community’s language? Or should they relocate and lose their source of income? 

While the government’s goal to preserve culture through language isn’t a bad idea, it looks like another poorly thought-out policy decision. Much funding has to go into teachers’ training and the provision of books written in the mother tongues. Also, students will face a painful shift when learning in English when they get to secondary schools and higher institutions. 

This policy looks like it would create many unnecessary issues for students and teachers and that’s why it doesn’t even have an implementation timeline yet.

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