Omolewa on languages & literacy
- Just came across an interesting discussion of indigenous languages
and literacy by Nigeria's UNESCO representative, Prof. Michael
Omolewa at http://www.iiz-
The description of his paper:
"Alongside the questions of the purpose of literacy and its influence
on economic development, a main focus of the debate is the role
played by language. Language is the expression of a people's cultural
identity, it reflects the world of experience and life, and it serves
to pass on traditions. Can the full range of indigenous languages be
maintained (over 400 in Nigeria)? Or is it more sensible to teach
people literacy in the official national languages and in the
languages most widely used throughout the world so that they are more
likely to solve pressing global problems and have better
opportunities in the context of increasing world globalisation?
Professor Michael Omolewa, Ambassador and Permanent Delegate of
Nigeria to UNESCO, provides food for thought. Before he moved to
Paris to take up his present post, he was for many years Professor of
Adult Education at the University of Ibadan, Nigeria. This is host to
an interesting literacy project, which was awarded a UNESCO Literacy
Prize some years ago."
Personally I don't agree with the either-or framing of the question
re choices of languages, though I'd definitely agree with starting
adult literacy and basic education in the mother tongue - which may
actually facilitate learning another language. There are a number of
issues relating to effectuating such approaches, some of which Prof.
I also think that his conceding "languages of the computer" to
European languages is counterproductive especially at this time. If
anything, IT is getting more multilingual, though to be sure the bulk
of internet content and e-mail communication is still in English and
other European languages (plus significant & growing Chinese
content). There would seem even to be interesting potential for use
of IT for literacy work where conditions of access permit.