There is currently an air of excitement sweeping across Namibia among Nigerians living in this southern African country. The Nigerian citizens are happy they have actualised the dream of protecting a major aspect of their culture while away from home by teaching their children Nigerian languages.
This was made possible through the efforts of the executives of the Association of Nigerians in Namibia (ANINAM) supported by the Nigeria High Commissioner to Namibia, Ambassador Lilian Onoh, in organising language classes for their children in three major Nigerian languages.
An ostensibly excited Ambassador Onoh said that as Nigeria’s principal representative in Namibia, she is so proud to represent the group of citizens in Namibia.
Her words: “In this year 2020, with so many challenges, ANINAM was able to organise and start teaching our children in Namibia our own indigenous languages.
“Parents volunteered, they clean the building, provide materials and the incredible turnout has meant that we now need to expand the space for learning, which we have started doing. The language classes have also resulted in another benefit. Parents now come on Saturdays with their children and arrange cookouts, picnics and play areas for younger ones.
“The parents also take time to play table tennis and long abandoned games like Ludo and Drafts as they wait for their children. It has now become a meeting place and a resting place for parents and children, leading to even greater unity among our people in Namibia.”
She disclosed that this has set an example for other nationals as well as the locals, pointing out that Nigeria now stands head and shoulders above all other citizens in Namibia in their ability to come together and mobilise.
“During the lockdown, our citizens donated food and other essential items and raised funds to help the less able among ourselves. They donate their time to teach our children our languages and they are already making plans to teach I.C.T., Maths and other essential sciences, to our children during weekends.
“Under the able leadership of Dr Jude Osakwe and the vibrant executive board, ANINAM has soared to greater heights. My appreciation goes to the volunteer teachers and the parents that have made this dream possible,” the ambassador said.
She believes that the children in Namibia will no longer feel like strangers anytime they return to Nigeria again.
“Indeed, we give God the glory for the privilege of having so much unity among ourselves and for having so many talents and languages to bequeath to our children in Namibia,” she said.
Also speaking, ANINAM President, Dr Jude Osakwe, noted that over the past few decades, there has been remarkable increase in the number of people living abroad, pointing out that this has affected the way most families bring up their children.
“Efforts are not being put in teaching these children their mother tongue and if it continues this way, all these beautiful languages will disappear from households and will be at risk of becoming extinct. For us, we know that language is intrinsic to the expression of culture and a means of communicating values, beliefs and customs, it has an important social function and fosters feelings of group identity and solidarity,” he said.
According to him, this was the reason their association took it upon itself to organize language classes for Nigerian children living in Namibia in the hope that it would make them become more connected to their home country.
He disclosed that at the moment, they are teaching the three major Nigerian languages, saying that the enthusiasm of parents and children are really encouraging.
“We really appreciate the support of the Nigeria High Commissioner to Namibia, Ambassador Lilian Onoh. She has been a pillar to the association. She provided accommodation for the classes and made sure that all necessary facilities needed for success of the programme is available. The number of children registering for the language class increases on a weekly basis and as a result of this and the limited space to accommodate the children for in a conducive teaching environment, Her Excellency has embarked on renovation of the facility to expand it in order to accommodate the children and others attending the language classes and this will further assist us, the Association of Nigerians in Namibia – ANINAM – to finally have our fully functional secretariat,” Osakwe said.
He said that the unifying effect of the language school cannot be over-emphasized, adding that every parents now look forward to the weekend language classes to bring their children and also come together with other Nigerian families who may not have the opportunity to see each other for a very long time due to business and work schedule.
“We as an Association of Nigerians in Namibia cannot thank our ambassador enough for making us – the Nigerians in Namibia and our children – feel at home away from home,” he said.
Also a teacher and parent for the language class, Mrs Fayokemi Tobi, said that the language school is a laudable initiative of the executives of ANINAM, saying that it’s imperative to teach children their beautiful languages.
Her words: “There are so many children who speak English and other languages, but not Yoruba. This is understandable because some were brought to Namibia when they were very young while others were born here. There are people whose primary mode of communication at home is the English Language because one parent is a Namibian. This Yoruba language class affords them the opportunity to learn how to communicate in their mother tongue.
“As Yorubas, our culture is fast eroding to civilization, whereas the latter is very beneficial, but it shouldn’t be at the expense of the former.
“We are proudly Nigerians and more importantly proudly ‘Omo Oodua’, our children should have a sense of belonging even if they are far away from home.
“Volunteering to teach the children Yoruba has been very encouraging. Seeing the enthusiasm in them, the willingness to learn and their commitment to learning brings so much joy.
“Their ability to form short sentences and communicate in our mother tongue within a short period of time is so beautiful. Sometimes, they even interject the curriculum for the day by asking for meanings of words or how to say a particular sentence in Yoruba. The parents have been very committed and supportive too, which further buttressed the need for the class. A big thanks to the ANINAM executives and all parents, please keep the good work going.”
Speaking on the importance of home language, Prince Franklin Ohio said that language is one of the most important gifts one can give to one’s child.
“Using your home language connects your children to your family. It also provides a connection to your important cultural traditions, and to friends and neighbours who speak the same language. Using your home language allows you to teach your children, and to learn new things together.
“Language is used to inform others, to ask them to do certain things and to express feelings, moods, ideas, information, experiences etc. Language undoubtedly has a very important social purpose because it is mainly used for linguistic communication. Following the realisation of this concept, the leadership of the Association of Nigerians in Namibia, with the firm support of the Nigeria High Commission under the leadership of Ambassador Lillian Onoh, took the bull by the horn and established language classes to teach the Nigerian children in Namibia.
“Most of these children don’t have the privilege to associate with children of the same cultural background, but with the infusion of home language in their activities here in Namibia, they would be able to imagine what it feels like at home, and cope with their contemporaries when they visit and also able to communicate with the locals, as one of the main goals of language is to communicate with people and to understand them.
“Language expresses and evokes ideas, thoughts and feelings. So, this initiative of the ANINAM executive is much welcome and it’s my belief that it will go a long way in fostering our unity here in Namibia,” he said.
Also, Victor Uzoma Nwagbara agreed that the “Nigerian language class is a dream come true to teach our children our mother tongues. This is the best thing that will happen to Nigerian residents in Namibia.
“Personally, I have difficulty in speaking my mother tongue which is Igbo because I grew-up in Yoruba land, this scenario spills over to my children as most of them grew up outside the Nigerian shore. My wife being a Namibian, culminate more challenges for the family to interact in my mother tongue. With the introduction of the Nigerian language class, my family is very enthusiastic to learn our Nigerian languages and culture.
“My children try to mimic my accent (Igbo), and they understand some of the words and greetings. In fact, we can discuss family issues in my mother tongue even in the presence of visitors that are non-Nigerians as compared to speaking English every time. Introduction of Nigerian language class will enhance our children to know their identity and culture. Once you lose your language, you lose your identity.”