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Omolewa on languages & literacy

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  • Don Osborn
    Just came across an interesting discussion of indigenous languages and literacy by Nigeria s UNESCO representative, Prof. Michael Omolewa at http://www.iiz-
    Message 1 of 1 , May 25, 2003
      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.
      Omolewa explores.

      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.

      Don Osborn
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