News The African Way

Nigerians Kick Against Government Plans To Teach Mathematics and Science In Indigenous Languages

By Winifred Bulus

Kaduna (Nigeria) — Some Nigerians have criticized recent announcement by their Minister of Science and Technology, Ogbonnaya Onu on plans to teach science subjects and mathematics in indigenous languages.

The Minister recently says in order to make children interested in mathematics and science, Nigerian schools would teach pupils in various indigenous languages.

According to him the act would also prevent local languages in the country from going extinct.

The Minister said, “These pupils grow up with their indigenous languages at home before they start going to school, where they are now taught in foreign languages. So, we have observed that there is a challenge to understand the foreign languages first before they could even start understanding what they are being taught.

“We believe that this plan will help our students to understand mathematics and the science subjects, and also promote the application of science and technology for national development. Our ministry has looked around the world how nations attained greatness and all the countries that are doing very well use indigenous languages at very early age in the teaching of science and mathematics.”

Reacting, a Nigerian, Dorothy Galadima said, “It is a very wrong idea because the public who learn in their dialect will have to interact with other people from other tribes. If I learn with ‘Jaba’ how then do I interact with a ‘Jju’ or ‘Kataf’ person?

Also speaking Godiya Esther says: “That is almost impossible. It will take too much time for the different languages to introduce new mathematical terms to their vocabulary. How do you say integer in ‘Jju’ language? How do you say equation and calculus, how about logarithm? Words have to be derived or formed. That would take ages.”

A lawyer, Florence Hassan said, “Although it is a welcomed idea, however it should be noted that students will be restricted to understanding these subjects in the languages being taught and may find it hard to relate to it internationally.

“Recognised languages such as English and French and as such knowledge, ideas and invention or development of such knowledge may however be restrictive as the students can only pass the knowledge to only those who understand the language.”

To Bodam Gwani, “The poor quality of education in Nigeria is not because of the language being used, but because we have neglected the sector.  I didn’t have any problem with English, simply because I was taught well.

“I attended all government schools, and no one can tell me I got inferior education, even those that studied abroad. I can say now, the same schools I went to, can’t provide the same level of education. This has nothing to do with English language as the medium.”

“We shouldn’t create a new problem, when looking for a short cut, we should address the real problem. The problem is the Quality of education, medium used is not the problem.”

A school girl who hails from Jaba in north central Nigeria told AFRICA PRIME NEWS that she does not understand her language and would rather have her teachers teach her these subjects in English, “My teacher teaches me mathematics in English and I understand the subject.”

Nigeria has over 400 indigenous languages and dialects with several others gone extinct. The plan to teach mathematics and science was to find a way of preserving some of these languages.

But there is currently no definite plans with timelines put on ground to actualise the announcement. There is also no idea on how many of the 400 languages would be used to teach the primary school pupils.

To achieve the lofty idea, content and curriculum must also be designed in the chosen languages to make it work.

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