Friday, June 9, 2017


Two concepts are at variance here: logic and logistics. If there is any clear problem with Dr. Fakinlede's position, it is the logistic aspect, and I think I can infer that this is in a nutshell what Madam Tina Edebor and Professor Ugwuanyi are arguing. The logic and cognitive strengths of mother tongue education have been proven beyond all reasonable doubts in research, experimentations, etc. To be convinced on this position, just turn to the last half a century of works that have argued for this position: Jim Cummins (Canada), Ngugi waThiongo (Africa), Paulo Freire (in the area of critical theory), Gloria Ladson-Billings (theory of the culturally relevant pedagogy) and in Yoruba language specifically, works of Fafunwa, Afolayan (Adebisi), and Awoniyi have done the job.  The simple, most empirical argument to support the strength of mother tongue education is that there does not exist any nation in the world which is advanced in science and technology yet uses a second language as its medium of instruction – none. To reverse the syntax, no nation using another person's language as its medium of instruction has ever attained the level of scientific or technological development - period! Therefore, the only aspect of Tina Edebor that I disagree with is where she wrote and I quote: "I would humbly disagree with the points related to the cognitive domain and the acquisition of scientific knowledge taught in the lingua franca of the nation." End quote. Yes, MTE does enhance the cognitive domain.

No doubt, the child learning in someone else's language is short-changed and there is a limit to how far he or she can go when it comes to thorough content understanding and practical application. The University of Ife experiment of the 1970s is a proof that MTE is possible in a local setting and at the K-12 level. The recipients of the Ife experiments were all Yoruba kids, and so were the instructors Yoruba. The experiment did not go beyond the elementary school level but today, the products of that experiments have turned out to be outstanding adults - artists, physicians, engineers, etc.
The logistic counter-argument is valid, though. For it is fair to ask the question, how would you instruct in Yoruba, or any mother tongue for that matter, at the various universities in, for example Ibadan, Ife, Lagos, Ilorin, Benin, Nsukka, Enugu, Uyo, Zaria, Kaduna, Abuja etc., where there exist myriads of languages that form mother tongues for those who are students and of course for instructors on campuses and in the same classrooms? It seems that while the logical argument of the overarching superiority of the mother tongue is undeniable, its feasibility in a multilingual and multicultural society like Nigeria is a long way in attainment. This is where educational planning comes in. A society that aspires for a comprehensive mother tongue education (K-16) will have to plan it over several generations of implementation. Without such planning, all we can do is just to keep talking and writing about this lofty idea, which is good in pen and paper but in reality is akin to an attempt to squeeze the proverbial water out of the aging rock.

Thanks for listening, folks!
Michael O. Afolayan
Away From the Land of Lincoln

On Friday, June 9, 2017 5:58 AM, 'ugwuanyi Lawrence' via USA Africa Dialogue Series <> wrote:

"Findings based on science have come to the conclusion that using another person's language to teach science, technology, engineering and mathematics is dangerous – dangerous - to our children, and to us adults too
I itemize below, many reasons why this is the case:
1.       Our students, no matter how much they try, are at least five years behind those students who were taught in their native language.
2.       His level of understanding of the subject matter is significantly less than a child who is probably five years younger in the first place.
3.       Much knowledge of the surroundings is not transmitted to the child. This means that he may never know the use values or even the names of the plants and animals within his locality.
4.       Much knowledge about the the universe is not transmitted to the child. This means that the child is not exposed to the wonders of the heavens and things under the sea. Since he cannot receive the information till he learns a foreign language, he has very little chance of learning them at all.
5.       The level of appreciation of science and scientific reasoning is affected by the lateness in grasping scienctific methods. A mind already polluted with superstitious ideas cannot easily shed primitive ideas. For example, a Nigerian child may actually believe that money can come from human body parts – a la Africa Magic.
6.       The level of retention of the subject matter is much less – as much as 50% - over a period of one year compared with a child who was taught in his own language. This means that the student who is taught in a foreign language easily forgets what he learned.
7.       The use value of science and technology is much, much diminished in a child who leaned science and technology in a foreign language.
8.       The child is more likely prefer foreign things, materials, etc. to local things even when those local things are of better quality. This means he will prefer apples to mangoes.
9.       The child is more likely to think that his own language is inferior to the language with which he is being taught.  This inferiority carries on to adulthood.
10.   He child is more likely to think that the person in whose language he is learning is superior to him. This also carries to adulthood.
The disadvantages of not learning science and technology in our own language manifest themselves in adulthood. They affect the way we think and the way we see ourselves. They affect our creative abilities and ability to compete on the global stage. They affect our ability to become a technlogical society. In which case we cannot use science and technology to industrialize and create wealth.
It is therefore obviously evident that learning science, technology, engineering and mathematics in another person's language is dangerous to our existence."

This is an important observation.Perhaps more important than we may take it to be.

It is not just dangerous to our children alone  but to a great extent adults as well.

Ngugi 's book entitled  Decolonising the Mind discusses this issue very comprehensively.

I would even prefer to locate the source of the deepening crisis of African modernity which I would prefer to call medieval modernity from this angle.

Lawrence Ogbo Ugwuanyi,Ph.D
Professor of African Philosophy and Thought
Department of Philosophy and Religions
University of Abuja
Founder:Centre for Critical Thinking and Resourceful Research in Africa(


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