By Policy Shapers

In November 2022, the Minister of Education in Nigeria, Mallam Adamu Adamu, announced that the Federal Executive Council (FEC) had approved a National Language Policy for primary schools across the country.

While speaking to State House correspondents, Adamu noted, “One of the highlights is that the government has agreed now that, henceforth, instruction in primary schools; the first six years of learning will be in the mother tongue.”, For language-preservation advocates like Jonise Adekunle and Oluwatoyin Bello, who have been campaigning through to preserve indigenous languages, this represents a victory. While this victory will save our dying mother tongue across all generations, there are questions about the policy’s feasibility and implementation. 

For young people, we have adopted a popular framework in journalism, the 5Ws + H framework, that makes issues and stories easy, like counting five fingers: What exactly is the language policy idea? Why is it important? Where is it located? When will it be implemented? Who will be involved? And how will it come to life?

WHAT: What exactly is this policy idea?

It’s easy to have an idea and believe it is the best thing that has happened to the world since the first slice of bread. However, in public policy, such a barebones idea is not enough. That’s where policy briefs/memos come into play—these documents provide a template to organise your ideas and find research data and examples from other states or countries to support your idea and argument. You can find some policy memos on our website and watch the Policy Saturday class on writing a policy brief below.

Since the announcement by the Minister in November 2022, the Federal Ministry of Education has yet to publish a policy memo or brief that fully captures the details of this national language policy. We give them zero points here. 

WHY: Why is this policy idea important? 

The purpose of a policy idea is crucial in public policy. You have to know your “why,” as it strengthens the argument for your idea. For instance, one of the reasons for implementing a national language policy is to preserve our indigenous languages and cultures for future generations. 

WHERE: Where is this policy idea located?

When we ask the question “where,” it speaks to a geographical location and provides context when we relate it to the national language policy for Nigeria’s primary schools; better put in context, there are over 116,000 primary schools in Nigeria, according to Statista. More puff puff for thoughts also includes how feasible it is for this new policy to get implemented across all the schools nationwide. Have you also wondered why the policy is not intended for nursery schools? It’s truly worth noting.

WHEN: When will this policy idea be implemented? 

During his announcement last year, the minister of education also admitted that even though the policy “starts today”, “the use of mother tongue is exclusive, and we need time to develop the material, get the teachers, and so on.” We also have to note that timelines are important and help us work towards a goal. No timeline was provided to the public to help you, and I understand how long it will take for proper implementation. It has been six months since the Federal Executive Council approved the language policy, and we have to ask what progress has been made so far. When will the policy take full effect? 

WHO: Who will be involved in the implementation?

This question probes further into the human resources required for successful implementation. Just as we said in our #ReformIELTS story, every policy idea needs people to bring it to life. In the case of this language policy, we need teachers, linguists, curriculum designers, investors, and many more stakeholders interested in indigenous language and culture preservation.

HOW: How will this policy idea come to life?

The “how” question is essential to every policy action plan. Nigeria has about 625 languages; how would this idea be rolled out to ensure that minority languages like Idoma, Ibibio, or Khana experience no form of discrimination? How long would it take for teachers to learn the new languages required? In some states with as many as 50 languages, would all schools teach only one language, or would they differ by “main” languages per state? Would this policy change be implemented simultaneously nationwide or rolled out in phases? These are only a few “how” questions; I’m sure you can already see where this is going. 

Many policies formulated by the government and private organisations in Nigeria fail because they do not answer the “how” question.

As the Baddie/Idan that you are, next time a government official tries to confuse you with big grammar and elaborate yet barebone ideas, please remember the 5Ws + H framework.

We are rooting for you! Our superstar policy Eleniyan


This piece is produced as part of the partnership between Policy Shapers and Zikoko Citizen to deliver policy analysis to young Nigerians.



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