With the resounding echoes of the Yoruba folk-song, ‘Iya ni wura iyebiye, Iya ko see f’owo ra’ – ‘A mother is a gem… a mother is priceless’, the United Nations Information Centre (UNIC), Lagos set the tone for the joint observance of the 2014 International Mother Language Day by UNIC Lagos and Harare and kick-started the first collaborative programme implementation between two Centres.
The programme, a video conference between a group of Nigerian students and their counterparts in Harare Zimbabwe, was facilitated by the UN Department of Public Information, New York, to discuss the role of mother language, its impact in teaching and learning, its limitations in teaching Science as well as the influence of foreign languages on local culture and youths.
Welcoming the students to the Centre, the UNIC Lagos Officer-in-Charge, Ms Envera Selimovic, enjoined the students and their parents to preserve their culture by constantly nurturing their mother language. ‘Do not look down on speakers of mother languages as inferior and non-educated,’ the National Information Officer, Oluseyi Soremekun, added.
In the message of the UN Secretary General which was jointly presented by three students from Lagos and Harare, Ban Ki-moon noted that Mother Language would help ‘deepen and enrich our global knowledge base with more traditional but often overlooked scientific wisdom.’ He called for the promotion of linguistic diversity and multiligualism as a key element of building a better world.
In her preamble, the Subject Matter Expert at the Lagos end, Ms Funke Treasure Durodola, observed that speaking mother language also instilled in the speaker, the values of the language culture which, according to her, could lead to socio-cultural development of the child.
During the interactive session, the students, both from Lagos and Harare, were unanimous in their views: “In schools, subjects are taught in English Language but I would have a better understanding if I am taught in my mother tongue,” said Miss Jesutofunmi Soremekun, a Yoruba-speaking 14-year old student of Covenant University Secondary School, Ota, Ogun State. Michael Felix of Government College, Eric Moore, Lagos confirmed, ‘Surely, I understand English but I prefer Igbo, my mother language.’ For Miss Ogechi Kanu of Fountain Heights Secondary School, Surulere, Lagos, ‘If we don’t speak our mother language, there is something missing.’
The programme attracted other friends of UNIC, Lagos including Ms Shohini Ghosh, a Bengali speaking Indian and Mr Victor Asije a journalist and a Nigerian minority language speaker. Ms Gosh underscored the importance of mother tongue when she admitted to the audience that her first thought always was in her mother language while Mr Asije highlighted the important role the media play in preserving mother languages.
The event was attended by 40 participants comprising of students and teachers from five schools; representatives of five media organisations and the Head, WHO Lagos Office, Dr Majebi Phillips.
The International Mother Language Day is observed every 21 February.