That Indigenous Languages Bill in Benue Assembly

By Sunday Iduh

Recently, a bill for a law to provide for teaching of Tiv, Idoma and Igede languages in Primary, Secondary and Higher Institutions of learning in Benue State and for purposes connected therewith, 202, scaled through first reading in the Benue State House of Assembly. It was referred to the Rules and Business Committee by the Speaker, Hon. Titus Uba, for further legislative processes.

What this development portends is that, when the bill is finally passed and given assent by the Governor, the teaching of the three major languages in Benue State will become compulsory at all levels of education in the state.

 The indigenous languages give learners confidence and help to affirm their cultural identity. This in turn has a positive impact on the way learners see the relevance of school to their lives. When learners speak or understand the language used to instruct them, they develop reading and writing skills faster and in a more meaningful way.

Research shows that second language instruction improves overall school performance, cognitive development, problem solving, and creativity.  Bilingual children have increased meta-linguistic awareness, or knowledge ‘about’ languages. These skills are an important piece of intellectual development, reading skills development and overall academic success.

A study of a second language improves knowledge of the first language as well as mathematics and logic skills as shown by decades of studies by renowned scholars. Children who study a second language usually perform well.

Second language learning increases mental flexibility for children. They are more creative and better at planning and solving complex problems. Bilinguals, with two or more words for a single object, concept or idea, think more abstractly about words and language.

Based on years of research by various scholars, the inclusion of native language and culture in school curriculum is an important factor in native children’s academic achievement, retention rates and school attendance. A culturally responsive approach to teaching connects students’ experiences in and out of the school, supports educational equity and excellence, and empowers students by giving them the skills to effectively negotiate and impact the world around them.

The inclusion of indigenous languages is not detrimental to academic achievement; rather, it promotes academic achievement and cultural knowledge, preparing youth to be leaders of their communities.

Current studies indicate that native language is integral to the sense of well-being of native children and in turn, to their academic performance, self-esteem and ability to succeed in a complex world. When a school values and utilizes students’ native language in the curriculum, there is increased student self-esteem, less anxiety and greater self-efficacy.

It is pertinent that stakeholders in the state support this move by the assembly so that our cultural values are upheld and our languages preserved. But can the assembly see to the actualization of this bill? Only time shall tell.

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