Following the incessant disappearing of indigenous languages and its detriment to natives and humanity, the Rivers State Indigenous Language Teachers Association RILTA, has intensified efforts in her bid to ensure that the state’s indigenous languages do not become extinct.
This commitment to preserving and teaching indigenous languages to natives and residents was expressed in RILTA workshop, held at Rumuigbo, Port Harcourt, on Wednesday.
The training which was duly attended by indigenous teachers from various Local Government Areas of the state, featured the review and presentation of the first ever Rivers Language Teaching Guide for Basic one to three and Rivers’ Primer Vol 2, written by RILTA President, Dr. Ovuchi J.R. Agwnu.
There was also an interactive session, 2023 performance review of teaching and learning in indigenous languages, inauguration of a six-man mother tongue committee, among others.
In his address, Ovuchi, who is also the Director of Rivers Language Centre, told the participants that teaching has evolved from teachers centered to learners centered, urging them to adopt the step-by-step principles in their teaching.
He charged them to, “proceed from simple to complex, known to unknown, part to whole. Always motivate learners to learn, don’t teach in isolation, go to class at all time with the three H; head, heart and illustrative material in you hand that will make learning easier.
“Every good teacher must have class control, keep a clean diary of your activities, promote morality, be neat, communicate effectively, make the pupils your friend, treat them well, eschew cane and apply other means of discipline, be creative and organized.”
The president emphasized on the need for natives and residents of the state to learn the language of their immediate environment, adding that when an indigenous language becomes extinct, the knowledge of the culture is also lost forever.
Ovuchi, while making reference to the United Nation’s Declaration, stressed that indigenous languages are central to indigenous peoples’ identity, critical to expressing their self-determination and existence, as well as its importance in the Nigeria education sector.
In an exclusive interview with TNN, he explained that, “the Rivers State Indigenous Language Teachers Association is an organization for all teachers of indigenous languages across the schools in Rivers State, especially the Rivers State Universal Basic Education.
“Its been on for years and it is the group in-charge of the teaching and learning scheme going on currently in the state. You are aware that the language of Rivers State are been taught in some schools in Rivers State every Friday, under this current administration, it started since the inception of the very Reverend, Venerable, Dr. Fyneface Ndubuisi Ackah, our boss and chairman of the Rivers State Universal Basic Education Board.
“When he came onboard, about the second term in office, he was told that our languages are not been taught, he sought for professionals who could help the state out of this quagmire and before now, we have already pressed various quarters that we have the means, the content, the manpower and the curriculum.
“When they gave us a try, the same month, we hit the ground running and the result has been tremendous across the board. You heard the testimonies across the areas, across languages to the glory of God.”
On the unveiled book, the president explained that, “part of what has happened today is the unveiling of Rivers Language Teaching Guide for every language teacher to use, the lesson plan, things that would have made them rack their head have already been developed for them.”
He further charged language teachers who attended the workshop to, “keep hope alive, keep doing what you are doing because someday it will pay.”
Earlier in his review, RILTA Secretary, Eze Ishmael O. Nweke said, “performance review of teaching and learning in indigenous languages is a crucial aspect of preserving and promoting linguistic and cultural diversity.
“The review serves to assess the effectiveness of educational programs aimed at teaching indigenous languages, as well as the overall impact on the communities involved. What follows would be part of my considerations in this review.
“The Universal Basic Education Board granted permission to the Rivers Indigenous Language Teachers Association to commence the teaching and learning of Rivers indigenous languages in Rivers State with effect from September 2022.
“To this end, 31 teachers were engaged to teach 12 indigenous languages in 19 LGAs. So far, the Board had been consistent in releasing the stipends and teachers’ payment had been regular and up-to-date. We thank the Board for keeping to their responsibility.
“In March and May, 2023, the Monarchs of Ekpeye and Abua pledged to sponsor additional 10 and 6 indigenous teachers, respectively to teach Ekpeye and Abua in selected schools in their Kingdom. In this respect, we thank His Imperial Majesty Eze Sir (Amb) Kelvin Ngozi Anugwo Ph.D, FNIM, MNIM, JP, AP, Eze Ekpeye Logbo III of Ekpeye Land and His Royal Majesty King Kaleh O.M. Obuge, JP, The Oda-Abuan, Kingdom of Great Abua for their kind gestures.
“At the end of the 2022/2023 Academic Session in July, 2023, directives were issued for teachers to assess their pupils with practical / verbal (oral) questions. To this effect, seven questions were set at the center to ensure uniformity, from which five questions were to be answered.
“You will recall that teachers complained over the near illegibility of the handwritten and photocopied lecture notes handed over to teachers during the last session. Consequently, on resumption of the 2023/2024 academic session, teachers were instructed to adopt the previous first term syllabus for teaching pending the final printing of the current session’s teaching notes. We thank the teachers for their cooperation and understanding.
“We are delighted to report that the new lecture notes being awaited had been printed and ready for sale after presentation in this workshop. Teachers should be prepared to turn in their performance report at the end of each term.”
Nweke further appealed for the, “inculcation of indigenous language teachers into the teaching staff of the Ministry of Education, provision of supervision vehicle, an increase in the number of schools for teaching of indigenous language to create the required awareness in the State and LGAs, teaching of indigenous language in one or two schools in an LGA creates low impact of the teaching and learning of indigenous languages in the LGA.”
Speaking on the challenges of the association, the Language Coordinator and RILT Public Relations Officer, from Eleme LGA, Chief Osaro Ollorwi said, “one of the problems we are facing is the problem of instructional materials, they are lacking but by God’s grace, we are trying to develop it gradually to assist us in keeping the languages alive.
“Also, funding, these publications require money, we use our own funds to run these. Again, we want private schools to cash into this opportunity because the language of the immediate environment, according to language policy, is key.
“It is bad that we are in Rivers State people are learning Hausa, Igbo, they don’t even learn Iwhuruoha, Ikwerre, Kalabari, that area of operation, why not inculcate the language of the immediate environment, we have materials, we have trained teachers, we have the tools, we are no longer limited to execute indigenous language teachings in schools. We need also, the government to buy into this and make sure that every Primary School has an indigenous language teacher.”
Appreciating the leaders and organizers of the training on behalf of the over 50 participants, the Chairman, Abua Language Development and Literacy Society, Deacon Reuben E. Arugu, said, “I have been right there from the beginning when the teaching started and I have seen it as a very successful project, very, very useful, well attended and those who have taught us were prepared and they have presented to us what we really need. We are going back to be effective teachers to the pupils by the grace of God.”
Members of the Mother Tongue Committee inaugurated, among other representatives across all LGAs coopted were, Chief Isaac Nduaku of Abua LGA, Ayii Saturday Nwile of Tai LGA, Ernest Ichenwo, Port Harcourt LGA, Rev. Iboh Daniels Oruan, Abua, Chief Elder Njoku Nathaniel, Etche, and Felix Uwame of Ahoada-West.