By Okunade Adekunle
The use of Yoruba Language in public and private schools in Lagos and also in homes is going into extinction because many of the wards in schools have almost jettisoned the use of their mother language in communication among themselves and their parents. Thus, the Lagos State House of Assembly has placed it upon itself as a legislative responsibility to come up with a bill to promulgate a law to not only promote the use of Yoruba language in Lagos schools but also preserve the language so that it will be a significant language among other native languages in the country.
During the week, the lawmakers in seeking policy input from relevant stakeholders in the education and linguistic industry organised a public hearing on the bill “The Promotion and Preservation of the Use of Yoruba Language in Lagos State and for Connected Purposes.” The ingredients for the bill emerged from the Yoruba Summit Day organised by the House in 2016 as part of measures to promote and preserve the language and its accompanying customs and traditions. However, education experts have expressed their views and opinions on the proposed bill.
Speaker Obasa Speaks on Proposed Bill
The Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, Rt (Hon) Mudashiru Obasa, lamented the low turnout of public schools teachers who were expected to be present at the public hearing because it was believed that it is through them that the message in the proposed bill and public hearing could be passed to the students. In his comment, Speaker Obasa stated that it was saddening to see young children and the elderly at times having difficulty in speaking Yoruba language.
“I have the privilege to travel far and wide, but do you know what? Other people cherish their native languages so they are developed and more sophisticated than us. So the question is, why is it so difficult for us to speak our language,” he asked.
Obasa, however, explained that the proposed law was not to intimidate anybody but “it is to encourage our children to start speaking in our mother tongue.”
The Chairman, House Committee on Education whose committee is committed to overseeing the proper scrutinizing of the bill before having the final nod of the lawmakers, Hon. Olanrewaju Ogunyemi, explained that the decisions was hinged on the committee’s observation that the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) had set aside 21st February of every year as International Mother Language Day.
National Policy on Education (NPE)
Ogunyemi added that Section 1(10) (a) of the National Policy on Education (NPE) states that “Government appreciates the importance of languages as a means of promoting social interaction and national cohesion; and preserving cultures.” He argued that in line with these provisions it would be inappropriate for “most schools now to regard the use of the native language as a vernacular.”
A participant who represented Lagos State University (LASU), Dr. Rufus Olaoluwa, observed that Section 5 of the Bill, which stated that “a credit in Yoruba Language shall be acceptable as part of requirements into any tertiary institution in the state” would be difficult to enforce. Olaoluwa suggested that instead of the provision in Section 5, students should be compelled to study the language up to SS 3 and that it should be listed as a core subject in schools.
In her comment, an Executive Secretary from Education District 5, Mrs. Anike Adekanye, explained that emphasis should be laid on teaching primary schools pupils the language. He state that it would be difficult to lay emphasis on the older generations. Adekanye suggested that parents should speak the language to their children at home.
Presenter of Yoruba Programme
A seasoned Yoruba programme presenter on TV, Mrs. Feyikemi Olasunkanmi, condemned the television stations in the state for not having enough Yoruba programmes on the stations. She also urged mothers to teach their children Yoruba Language, and charged the lawmakers in the state assembly to always honour invitations to appear on Yoruba programmes on television.
Analysts argued that the promotion of Yoruba language should not be limited to public schools but also all Lagos state public establishments. They say the Lagos Assembly has shown leadership by example as it mandated the use Yoruba language as a language of discussion and deliberation every Thursdays at plenary sessions so as to preserve the language in the state. But the fact remains that the lawmakers would need to do more than enforcing the use of Yoruba for deliberations in their chambers if they want to ensure the language gets its right of place in the state and the country. The must quickly pass the bill into law so that implementation will begin immediately.