As Nigeria moves towards reshaping basic education in Nigeria, the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) and the Nigerian Educational Research and Development Council (NERDC) have taken decisive steps to roll out a comprehensive National Reading Framework (NRF). This framework heralds the long-awaited implementation of the National Language Policy, a landmark initiative poised to revolutionize primary education across the nation. Approved by the Federal Executive Council in 2022, the National Language Policy marks a paradigm shift, advocating for the utilization of the mother tongue as the primary language of instruction in primary schools throughout Nigeria.
At the heart of this policy lies a profound recognition of the crucial role language plays in shaping educational outcomes and fostering cultural pride and identity. Presenting the NRF to key stakeholders during a dynamic two-day dialogue themed “Reading Initiative in the UBE Programme and the Use of Mother Tongue/Language of Immediate Environment as Medium of Instruction,” Garba Gandu, Deputy Director of NERDC, underscored the framework’s pivotal role in guiding learning activities nationwide. He emphasized that the NRF, endorsed by the National Council on Education (NCE), serves as a blueprint for transformative change in education, charting a path for Nigeria to emerge as a beacon of excellence in literacy.
Language policy vital for Nigeria’s national unity.
Crucially, Gandu highlighted the decentralized nature of implementation, emphasizing the significant role of individual states in governing their respective educational systems. To facilitate swift and effective execution, NERDC has developed implementation guidelines tailored to expedite the integration of the policy into educational practices at the grassroots level. Echoing Gandu’s sentiments, Hamid Bobboyi, Executive Secretary of UBEC, underscored the intrinsic link between language and citizenship, advocating for the use of the mother tongue as a catalyst for national cohesion and prosperity.
Bobboyi emphasized the urgency of addressing the learning crisis, warning that failure to do so could jeopardize Nigeria’s progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Citing alarming statistics from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), which reveal that three out of four children in Nigeria lack basic literacy and numeracy skills, Bobboyi urged stakeholders to prioritize actionable solutions. He emphasized the imperative of collaborative efforts to surmount persistent challenges, including inadequate access to instructional materials, substandard teaching quality, and parental disengagement.
NERDC urges indigenous language integration in education.
In alignment with the National Language Policy, Ismail Junaidu, Executive Secretary of NERDC, called for the comprehensive integration of indigenous languages into the national curriculum framework. Junaidu lamented the existing barriers to implementation, citing a dearth of language teachers, insufficient funding, and a lack of political will as significant impediments. Despite these challenges, Junaidu called for renewed commitment and concerted action from all stakeholders. He emphasized the importance of sensitization campaigns, capacity building initiatives for teachers, and strategic partnerships to drive the effective implementation of the policy.
The dialogue attracted a diverse array of participants, including prominent organizations such as the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), World Bank, British Council, and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). Their collective presence underscores the broad-based support and international recognition of the significance of the National Language Policy in advancing educational equity and excellence. Furthermore, the dialogue served as a platform for knowledge exchange and collaboration, with participants sharing innovative approaches and best practices in language-based education interventions.
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From the pioneering methodologies of the Jolly Phonics program to the inclusive initiatives championed by the Ayuda Foundation (A Special Needs Foundation), the dialogue showcased a wealth of resources and expertise poised to drive transformative change in Nigeria’s educational landscape. Looking ahead, sustained commitment and collaborative action will be imperative to realize the ambitious vision outlined in the National Language Policy. By prioritizing linguistic diversity, promoting cultural heritage, and fostering inclusive educational practices, Nigeria has embarked on a transformative journey towards building a more equitable and prosperous society for generations to come.