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Esan group hails FG over new language policy

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An umbrella socio-cultural organisation, the Esan Okpa Initiative has strongly applauded the Federal Government over the new National Language Policy, which makes it compulsory for the teaching of indigenous languages at the first six years of child‘s  education Primaries 1 to 6.

The organisation noted that the decision aligns with its agitation for urgent intervention in the face of the threat of extinction of the Esan language, spoken largely amongst the people massed in the Edo Central Senatorial Zone. The agitation, it said, had gone unheeded by successive administrations, including that of Governor Godwin Obaseki, and the authorities of the 40-year-old Ambrose Alli University (AAU), Ekpoma.

In a statement in Benin City signed by its President, Rt. Hon. Mathew Egbadon and Public Relations Officer, Mr Tony Iyare, Esan Okpa commended the Federal Government for this policy, which it contends may breathe life to the languages of many of the over 500 ethnic groups in the country presently threatened with extinction.

The group also urged the government to ensure that the indigenous language is taught along with English at the first three years of secondary school (JSS1-3).

While pouring encomiums on the authorities of Glorious Vision University (formerly Samuel Adegboyega University), Ogwa for commencing a certificate course in Esan Language, it calls on the Edo State Government and the authorities at AAU to also kickstart the process of teaching the language.

“There’s no doubt that we require hundreds of teachers versed in the Esan language and other instructional materials to see this policy through. But the government can leverage on the several texts already written by many authors on Esan language in addition to tapping from the rich exploits of some local people”, Esan Okpa counselled, arguing that once there’s “a will to promote the teaching of the language, there will always be a way”.

Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu had said that the Federal Government is intent on preserving cultures and peculiar characteristics of different Nigerian ethnic groups, lamenting that so much has been lost due to the extinction of some local languages.

Conceding that government is aware that implementation would be difficult, Adamu said that the mother tongue would be used exclusively for the first six years of education. while it would be combined with the English Language from Junior Secondary School.

The Minister noted that though the policy has officially taken effect, it can only be fully implemented when government develops instructional materials and qualified teachers are available.

The Esan people are located in five local government areas of Edo State Esan West, Esan Central, Esan Northeast, Esan Southeast and Igueben. Esan Okpa said that the Esan language and, by extension, its culture is threatened with extinction because many of its people including those who live in Esanland are no longer speaking the language.

In August 2021, Egbadon, also the pioneer Speaker of Edo State House of Assembly, addressed a press conference on behalf of Esan Okpa in Benin City decrying the development, calling for urgent intervention to safe the language. He stated then: “EOI is concerned that the Esan language is fast going into extinction, as many of our people, particularly the young ones, including those who live in Esanland, cannot speak the language, let alone write in it. The situation is so worrisome, to the extent that many of our people cannot string a simple sentence together in Esan language without mixing it up with mostly English Language.

“As a body, we have identified and outlined programmes and events we shall be embarking on soon, to sensitize and rekindle our people’s interest in speaking and writing in Esan language. We have plans to promote Esan language and culture among the Esan people, including those living outside the State, by setting up mini Esan language clinics in places like Lagos, Port Harcourt, Abuja and in the Diaspora.

“We wish to call on the Edo State government to reintroduce the study of Esan language in its school curriculum, at the primary and secondary school levels in Esanland. In the past, Esan language was taught in schools and was even part of the West African School Certificate Examination syllabus.

“We have adequate texts and books in Esan Language to support its teaching and teachers in schools in Esan Land. We will make a similar request to the State-owned University, Ambrose Alli University (AAU), Ekpoma, to, as a matter of urgency, introduce the study of Esan and other Edo languages and culture as part of the programme at its Department of Language Studies.

“It is anomalous that AAU’s Department of Languages does not teach Esan or any of the Edo languages, but teaches French, Russian and Spanish.

“As a body, EOI shall be ready to make its contributions in whatever way it can, to support the State government and the University in the study of Esan language and culture”.

Meanwhile, Esan Okpa, through its President, has also sent Christmas and New Year greetings to all Esan people at home and in the Diaspora, urging them to keep track of the 2024 Edo Agenda, which is the call on all Edos to support the election of a governor of Esan extraction in 2024 in the interest of peace, equity and justice.

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