Geoffrey Anyanwu, Awka
It was glorious for the six most outstanding students in Igbo language in the 2018 West African Examination Council (WAEC), as they were honoured by a pan-Igbo socio-cultural group, Igboekulie.
The event held in Awka, Anambra State, was the prize giving ceremony tagged: “Asusu Igbo Amaka” (Igbo language is good), organized to reward students who scored the best grades in the 2018 Secondary School Certificate Examination.
Anambra State Governor, Chief Willie Obiano, traditional rulers, the academia were other dignitaries present at the ceremony which had all the six winners both in the state and national categories come from Anambra state.
In the national category, Chinemelum Nwosu was the overall best student while Adaobi Okeke and Kenechukwu Anyichie emerged as first and second runners up. The trio, though from Anambra are students of Sacred Heart College, Uwani, Enugu, Enugu State.
Similarly, Kingsley Nwafor, Adannaya Ezeh and Chinecherem Ike, who emerged winners in the state categor, hail from Anambra State and are students of St Joseph’s High School, Umuona in Aguata Local Government Area.
WAEC provided data that determined the winning students.
The students got varying cash gifts and plaques from the organisers even as their teachers were also presented with cash gifts for their role in ensuring that students of their school excelled in Igbo.
President of Igboekulie, Prince Ben Onuorah said the group was motivated by the need to encourage the students to see Igbo language not as inferior to other subjects like English Language and
Mathematics, where prizes are regularly given to winners. He said, “We are motivated by the need to have more competent speakers of our language, especially among children and youth.
We are motivated by the desire to have more Igbo teachers and a lot of more Igbo language teachers, and more books published in Igbo language.
“Above all, we are motivated by a compelling determination to ensure that Igbo language does not go extinct or die by 2050 as predicted by the UNESCO. We will continue to support the speaking of Igbo language, to ensure that the prediction does not come to pass.”
Speaking on the topic, “Keeping Igbo language relevant in our modern and technology driven world”, guest lecturer, Dr. Ngozi Emeka-Nwobia, called on state governments to come up with incentives that would promote the study of Igbo language.
Emeka-Nwobia who is Head of Department, Language and Linguistics, Ebonyi State University, Abakaliki, however, noted that parents, the church and government have a great role to play in the promotion of Igbo language and culture. He disclosed that paucity of Igbo teachers in various tertiary institutions was a barrier to the study of the language.
She said: “The church we have is no longer promoting the Igbo language, especially Pentecostal churches that conduct about six services in English language without a single one in Igbo language, yet; the church is located in an Igbo speaking area. This brings about the problem of addressing the needs of non-English speakers who are members of the church.
“Government on their part, need to encourage students studying Igbo language by giving them scholarship. It was unfortunate that in my school, 400 students came to study English language but only four indicated interest
to study Igbo language. Today, we have paucity of teachers of Igbo language in Nigeria but if government encourages students to study the language, that paucity will be addressed and we will have more than enough teachers of Igbo which is also a way to promote the language.”
Obiano, who was represented by his Principal Secretary, Sir Willie Nwokoye, said his government has been very proactive in matters that concerned the study of Igbo language.
He informed that Anambra state is the only state where teachers of basic science subjects and Igbo language are paid higher salaries as incentives.
“In Anambra too, you know that Wednesdays have been marked as days when we speak only Igbo language, in schools, government establishments and others. Even Igbo traditional attires are the only form of dressing on those days, so, you can see that we have done all that we can to ensure the preservation of the Igbo language, here in Anambra.”
One of the students, Chinemelum Nwosu said they were happy with the recognition as it will spur them the more to do better and encourage other students to develop interest in Igbo language.