Monthly Archives

July 2016

Should Indigenous Languages be used for teaching in Nigeria?

By | L.I.F.E.

By Umar Abdullahi
Over the weekend, I was replaying a conversation I had on Friday in my head. The topic was ‘The use of native language as a medium of instruction in Nigeria.’ I got to hear opinions both for and against the practice.

On one side are those who feel teaching children in their native language will help them grasp quicker and increase the level of innovation. On the other are those who believe, by using English, children are being prepared for a leading role not just in their communities but also in the outside world.

I have thought about these arguments and can see the merit in both of them. If you teach a child in his/her native language, understanding is bound to be quicker. Russians learn in Russian. French learn in French. Arabs learn in Arabic. Why should a Nigerian be any different? Unfortunately, the demonym ‘Nigerian’ points to the crux of the matter. There is no universal Nigerian language. Rather, we acknowledge over 350 spoken indigenous languages across the Country. Which would you have teachers use in schools? We would need to train an army of translators to make sense of documents typed in one community that need to be sent to another.

Furthermore, there is no point trying to come up with textbooks in indigenous languages if there are no words in those languages for some concepts. To use the example that was given in the conversation I referenced earlier, what is the word for ‘microchip’ in your language? An answer doesn’t easily spring to mind. This should be taken as a challenge to our students in departments of Technology across the Nation. They could start a project in collaboration with those in the Department of Languages to translate some technological concepts and terms into our local languages. You are not likely to ever build a microchip if you keep thinking of it as something from a foreign country.

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In a Country like Nigeria which is often divided across ethnoreligious lines, a case could be made that the use of English as a National language actually helps the cause of National unity and prepares everyone for being able to communicate should they find themselves outside their community. What would happen if I went to address the National Assembly in my mother tongue, you rose to oppose me in yours, the Speaker tries to mediate in his while the clerk tries to record what is being said in a fourth?

For better or for worse, I think the Use of English as a medium of instruction in Nigerian schools is here to stay. However, I believe there is room for communities to organise specialised training programs, seminars and workshops for their members in the local language of that community. Such a bold step may be necessary if we are to successfully address the innovation gap between us and more technologically advanced parts of the world. For so long, we have been speaking about “catching up.” Such a thing won’t happen until we start looking for home grown solutions to problems. Perhaps the first step towards achieving that would be for us to receive at least some of our learning in the same languages we speak at home. I don’t speak English in casual conversation unless the other person I’m addressing doesn’t speak Hausa. Neither do I think in English. Do you?

Umar Amir Abdullahi works at Paradigm Initiative Nigeria as Program Assistant, DakataLIFE

Nigeria Plays Leading Role as UN Human Rights Council Adopts Resolution on Digital Rights

By | Internet Freedom, Press Release

…Nigeria’s Digital Rights and Freedom Bill Deserves Huge Support

Today, 1st of July 2016, the United Nations Human Rights Council, at its 32nd Regular Session, adopted Resolution A/HRC/32/L.20 on Digital Rights, a resolution on the promotion, protection and enjoyment of human rights on the Internet. This is a defining moment for digital rights as nations of the world recognize threats to Digital Rights and Internet freedom and have decided to stand against the foreseeable tyranny in the hands of those who seek to trample on the online rights of citizens.

Executive Director of Paradigm Initiative Nigeria, ‘Gbenga Sesan, said: “In what is an epoch-making moment that saw Nigeria, Brazil, Sweden, Tunisia, Turkey and the United States of America lead the resolution. This resolution will help to cement the discourse on Digital Rights globally and allow for extensive dialogues for the respect of the inalienable fundamental rights of every user online. This resolution is made in the wake of perennial challenges of Internet shutdowns, illegal surveillance, data privacy infringements, attack of freedom of expression online and direct encroachment of positive rights online.” He continued: “This marks a major victory towards guarding human rights on the Internet and deep appreciation goes to all stakeholders who recognized the need to stand on the right side of history. We wish to particularly commend the Nigerian mission and Foreign Affairs ministry for the role played in speaking against proposed amendments that could have watered down the resolution.”

According to the Resolution, it “… decides to continue its consideration of the promotion, protection and enjoyment of human rights, including the right to freedom of expression, on the Internet and other information and communication technology, as well as of how the Internet can be an important tool for fostering citizen and civil society participation, for the realization of development in every community and for exercising human rights, in accordance with its programme of work.”

Digital Rights and Freedom Bill_CTA

“As we record a glowing moment for Digital Rights globally, we use this medium to call on global voices – activists/advocates, jurists, civil society associations, the academia – to lend a voice for posterity in seeing that a beacon just like this resolution, in Nigeria, the Digital Rights and Freedoms Bill (HB. 490) – which just passed its second reading at the Federal House of Representatives – is passed into law to provide an institutionalized legal framework for Digital Rights in Nigeria. This will go a long way in lighting torches in other jurisdictions in cyberspace and providing a rights-inclusive environment online. This will also project the leadership position Nigeria has shown globally by making it meaningful at home,” said Adeboye Adegoke, PIN’s Program Manager (ICT Policy).

The Digital Rights and Freedoms Bill (HB. 490) is a draft piece of legislation before the Nigerian Federal Legislature which seeks to guarantee the fundamental human rights of Nigerians online. It is the first draft legal framework which speaks to issues of digital privacy, surveillance, lawful interception, net neutrality, freedom of expression, opinion and information, data use within the fringes of human rights in Africa – it is an opportunity for Nigeria to lead in respect of fundamental human rights in Africa and by extension, the world.

For contact on this statement or other advocacy efforts of Paradigm Initiative Nigeria, please reach out to Adeboye Adegoke on boye.adegoke(@) or info(@)