• Institute holds conference, calls for concerted efforts in developing local languages, achieving the SDGs
From Okey Sampson, Aba
Recently, all roads led to the National Institute for Nigerian Languages (NINLAN), Aba, Abia State for a five-day conference. The conference with the theme, “Nigerian Languages and the Sustainable Development Goals”, the organizers said, was in line with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) policy guideline on SDGs that came into effect in January, 2016.
In his keynote speech, the Vice Chancellor, Federal University, Gashua, Yobe State, Prof. Andrew Haruna, stated that Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a set of 17 global goals with 169 targets that are spearheaded by the United Nations and involved 193 members and the global civil society. He mentioned some of the SDGs to include eradication of poverty, zero hunger, good health and well being, quality education, clean water and sanitation, gender equality among others.
He said as a nation, Nigerian languages could contribute to the SDGs if they are used as medium of communication in such a way that it will significantly enhance the achievement of sustainable development particularly in the area of eradication of hunger and poverty.
He gave an instance with the health sector where Prof. Herbert Igboanusi of the University of Ibadan tried to eliminate stigmatisation and discrimination of persons living with HIV and AIDS by creating new names for Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) in Igbo, Hausa and Yoruba.
Prof. Haruna said the outcome was a two-years research titled, “A metalanguage for HIV/AIDS and Ebola discourses in Igbo, Hausa and Yoruba” which he said was sponsored by the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund).
Prof. Grace Chibiko Offorma of the Department of Arts Education, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, in her paper said that since language is a system of signs, symbols and rules and their applications to convey thoughts, feeling and information, it could be deployed effectively in so many ways to achieve sustainable development which is a cardinal pillar of achieving the SDGs.
Describing language as an acculturation tool which man uses to recognize his specie, record and report events and explore the environment, the professor of linguistics said unless language teachers provide effective instruction and create conducive classroom environment that will motivate the learners to learn, effective learning will not occur which in the long run will jeopardize the attainment of the SDGs.
Other speakers included Prof. Imelda Udoh of the Department of Linguistics and Nigerian Languages, University of Uyo, Uyo, Akwa Ibom State and Olagoke Alamu of Ekiti State University, Ado-Ekiti. While Alamu gave an overview of how Nigeria has fared in the implementation of the MDGs, Prof. Udoh on her part said the country should look inward and strategize to empower her languages, beginning with survey, documentation, description, codification and the development of tools to facilitate the work.
In an 11-point communiqué issued at the end of the conference, participants among others see language development which they believe to be the key to attaining the SDGs as the primary role and responsibility of parents. Therefore they should be determined and committed to teaching their children their indigenous languages at home by conducting family functions and businesses in these languages.
The communiqué, while urging traditional rulers to encourage their subjects to conduct all their traditional functions in their indigenous languages, asked the media to partner NINLAN towards the promotion of Nigerian indigenous languages.