Eziomume Solomon, Nnewi
PRESIDENT of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Anambra State chapter, Chief Damian Okeke-Ogene, has urged South East governors to improve the salaries of Igbo Language teachers as a way of promoting the language. He also opined that Igbo teachers should be given refresher courses and sponsored to workshops.
He regretted that the Igbo were trading their language and culture for some western civilisation. The Ohanaeze chieftain made the call recently, at a one-day promotion campaign organised by the Anambra State Library Board (ASLB) in Awka, with the theme: “Asusu Igbo gaadigide,” which literally translates as “Preserving Igbo language through reading, writing and speaking.”
Proffering solution to the threat posed to Igbo Language by westernisation, Okeke Ogene said: “It is painful that most of our children don’t understand the Igbo Language. I want the government to help in promoting our Igbo Language. First, we can start from speak- ing the language, then, we can advance to writing and using Igbo proverbs in communication. To achieve this aim, governments in the South East must encourage Igbo Language teachers by increasing their salaries and sending them on re- fresher courses.”
Director, ASLB, Dr Nkechi Udeze, noted that promotion of Igbo Language required concerted efforts from parents and teachers in supporting their children to speak, read and write the language. He largely blamed parents for paying inadequate attention to their children, urging parents and teachers to use Igbo Language while communicating with the children:
“I am not happy that most parents communicate with their children in English language instead of using Igbo. May be, they thought that understanding or writing Igbo language would prevent them from achieving their goals in life; but it is not true. Let every parent of Igbo extraction; begin to use Igbo to communicate with their children.”
Delivering a lecture on ways to promote Igbo Language, Prof Nkechinyere Nwokoye of Department of Linguistics, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, noted that language is the livewire of any tribe, and urged participants, mostly students, to ensure that they use their mother tongue in peer-to-peer conversations.
She faulted teachers and parents for not being alive to their responsibilities in ensuring that their pupils and wards spoke Igbo language; even as she encouraged Igbo parents in diaspora to use Igbo language in training their children.
She charged media houses, religious leaders, women groups and others to promote Igbo language; warning that if nothing was done urgently, the United Nations Education, scientific and cultural Organisation (UNESCO)’s pre- diction that Igbo language would go into extinction by 2050 would come to fruition.
Founder of ‘Otu Subakwa Igbo’, and former Vice Chancellor of Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Prof Pita Ejiofor, who also functioned as chairman on the occasion, encouraged participants to promote Igbo language at their homes. Expressing optimism that the language would gain prominence, the retired university lecturer also stressed the need for parents to encourage their children to apply for Igbo Language as their course of study in universities.
Senior Special Assistant to Governor Willie Obiano on Secondary Education, Dr Paul Ifeanyi, enjoined schools to key into the call for the promotion of Igbo Language at the primary, secondary and tertiary levels.
Traditional ruler of Nibo, in Awka South Local Government, Igwe M. C. Ngene, said Igbo Language promotion must start from the home. He, therefore, enjoined parents and teachers to use Igbo as language of communication at home and at the basic school lev- els.
Some of the schools that participated in the programme were: Igwebuike Grammar School, Awka; Potters College, Awka;
Holy Ghost Academy, Awka; Girls Secondary School, Awka; Community Secondary School, Okpuno, and Adorable British Spring, Awka.
There were spelling bees, sentence construction, reading and writing Igbo competition, where Ridge Valley Academy, Holy Ghost Academy and Adorable British Spring took the 1st, 2nd and 3rd positions respectively, at the primary school category; while Community Secondary School, Okpuno; Igwebuike Grammar School, Awka and Girls Secondary School, Awka came 1st, 2nd and 3rd positions respectively at the secondary category.