On Tuesday 21st of February 2017, the International Mother Language Day held its annual observance to promote the awareness of linguistics, cultural diversity and multilingualism. First announced by UNESCO on the 17th of November, 1999, the International Mother Language Day was built on the spirits to defend the rights to write in one’s mother language.
On this day, the United Nation Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation, UNESCO encourage people to maintain their knowledge of their mother language while learning and using more than one language.
In Nigeria, the Lagos State Government asked teachers and parents to desist from discouraging students who speak their local languages within school premises. UNESCO Director-General, Irina Bokova, and Tutor-General and Permanent Secretary, Education District 1, Dr. Oluyinka Ayandele, made the appeal at this year’s International Mother Language Day, IMLD, themed “Towards Sustainable Future through Multilingual Education,” held at Government Senior College, Agege Local Government.
Ayandele, after unveiling the handbook, explained that the Thursday model was tailored after the similar development at the State House of Assembly, where the lawmakers deliberate in Yoruba language on Thursdays. She noted that through the book and the usage of Yoruba on the assembly ground weekly, the culture would be preserved, saying “Our culture is so rich and we all must embrace it.” The TG/PS stressed that it was a thing of joy for the state to have a rich culture and her tenure would not relent in promoting and ensuring that students embrace it. “We will no longer ban or scold any students who speak their mother tongue in school premises which will encourage and boost their learning. Research has shown that children can learn over seven languages. So why are we short-changing the children by stopping them since it is not bad for them to speak their mother language,” she added.
Earlier, Bokova lamented that several languages in Africa including Nigeria could go into extinction if children were continuously restricted from speaking their local languages in schools and at home. The director, who was represented by Director, United Nations Information Centre, UNIC, in Nigeria, Roland Kayanja, said: “Mother languages help promote culture and identity of anyone who speaks them. And it helps them to live as good citizens of the world. “It is pathetic that some people claim they belong to a society but they cannot speak the mother language of the group. That is the challenge we are facing today and research has shown that the best way to teach a child is through the mother language,” she added. He however commended the Lagos State Government through Education District 1, for approving usage of Yoruba language, a mother language in the state, on assembly ground every Thursday, saying that the district is fulfilling the purpose of the Sustainable Development Goal, SDG.
UNESCO posits that to foster sustainable development, learners must have access to education in their mother tongue and in other languages. It is through the mastery of the first language or mother tongue that the basic skills of reading, writing and numeracy are acquired. Local languages, especially minority and indigenous, transmit cultures, values and traditional knowledge, thus playing an important role in promoting sustainable futures.
Languages are the most powerful instruments of preserving and developing our tangible and intangible heritage. All moves to promote the dissemination of mother tongues will serve not only to encourage linguistic diversity and multilingual education but also to develop fuller awareness of linguistic and cultural traditions throughout the world and to inspire solidarity based on understanding, tolerance and dialogue.
Source: – the United Nations International Mother Language Day