By Salihu A. Modibbo
The Olola of Olla Kingdom, Isin Local Government Area of Kwara State, Oba (Dr.) Stephen Billy Olajide, has canvassed the use of indigenous languages not only to teach foreign sciences but also to promote traditional sciences of Africa and Nigeria in particular.
Oba Olajide, an Associate Professor of English Language Education and Applied Linguistics in the Department of Arts Education, University of Ilorin, made the call in an interview with journalists in his office.
The don, who was recently installed the 17th Olola of Olla Kingdom by the Kwara State Government, commended the plan by the Federal Government to integrate indigenous languages into the educational system, pointing out however that it was not only about “using indigenous languages in sciences; we also should go deep into traditional sciences.”
According to the royal father, scholars across the three major Nigerian ethnic groups of Yoruba, Hausa and Igbo are currently working on what he termed a “meta-language” that can be used to describe technicalities, situations and events in the sciences.
Dr Olajide, however stated that “it is not just using indigenous languages in science, we also should go deep into traditional science. If you use indigenous languages to teach foreign science, we will be sciencing like foreigners, and you can’t catch them; they are far ahead. By the time you finish applying theory number 1, they are leaving theory number 10 for theory number 11; the gap is always wide.”
The language expert said, “For example, there is “egbé” technology; it’s a form of technology and it is of variety. Egbé is the vanisher and it has saved a lot of drivers and it has also killed a lot of them because they are of different varieties but if you deliberately encourage it, people will stop seeing it as fetish. What started some of those wonders that we admire in sciences were “fetish”, so through a process of deeper understanding, such things were demystified and they got into the texts and they became universal knowledge. So, as we promote science through indigenous languages, we should also let these indigenous languages help us to understand our indigenous sciences. We have indigenous sciences; so it’s not just language policy alone, we have to drastically pursue an understanding of our own setting”.
According to Dr. Olajide, “God Almighty, who gave the whites the knowledge, has also given us. Before the Christian whites came, Islam has made a lot of impact especially through the North…a lot of pre-historical facts that Western historians stumbled upon in Africa were through Islamic scripts, the first surgical operation in the world was carried out in Egypt in Alexandria, and Egypt then, was not under any British Empire, they had the knowledge themselves.”
He pointed out that “the pyramids of Egypt, the sphinxes that are there, the Pharaohs that were buried 3,000 – 5,000 years ago are there, fresh, using principles of environment that modern science cannot understand”.
“So, I believe that we have our own natural ways; God also gave us our sciences”, Dr. Olajide said, adding that “rather than name-call those who are interested in indigenous sciences, we should bring them onboard …Prof. Wande Abimbola is an example, we have so many of his own type, bring them into the school system, let them impact; then we will rework an indigenous education that encompasses language, science, culture, everything and then we will be stronger than anybody can imagine. We would rule the world if we gather our acts together and believe in God almighty and we pray for support and love one another genuinely, we can make a lot of impact”.
The Unilorin don further explained that although the use of indigenous languages in the curriculum was very important, “it may be difficult in a multilingual situation like Nigeria because the question is which indigenous language are you going to use. There are more than 500 languages now, and when you say Igbo, Hausa and Yoruba are the major languages, that is because you are talking politically.”
“In the real sense, every language is major to its users, so the moment you don’t reach them in their own mother tongue and you are teaching them in another man’s mother tongue you are oppressing them”, Dr. Olajide said, stressing however that “we can always go around it”.
He said, “Let us use regional languages – use Yoruba, develop it very well, use Hausa; use Igbo. These three for a start and the way to do it is at the primary school level if you offer a Nigerian language other than your mother tongue, when you get to the secondary school you must offer and pass one Nigerian language plus your mother tongue and another Nigerian language, a third Nigerian language so by the time you get to the University the three Nigerian languages you have learnt should be available to you through GNS.”
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