The Debate – French in Nigerian Schools Now Mandatory.

There was the recent news that it is now mandatory for students to study French in schools in Nigeria. That story can be found here

Predictably, there has been a myriad of reactions to this new policy, with some praising the move, while others feel this is focusing on the wrong thing.

Here are some reactions:

I acknowledge that this may make sense for business competitiveness of our youth, I would have preferred some effort being put into developing our local languages too. All Primary & Secondary school students in the South West for instance should mandatorily learn Yoruba, South East Igbo, South South Ijaw, Efik or Urhobo, North West Hausa, North East Hausa and North Central Hausa or Yoruba.
Before anyone comes out to debate about minority languages or dialects, the idea here is to push the dominant local language that’s already entrenched as a language(s) for business transactions & interaction within each region.

On the flip side another opined..

I think studying languages should be more about being able to have enhanced international competitiveness. It’s a global village, and we should think beyond our immediate surroundings, where education is concerned. Our local languages are not “international” yet (even Hausa that is spoken in a number of countries in the world has limited spread), and pushing this in school would not give anyone much edge in international business dealings. I think the teaching of local languages is the primary responsibility of the parents (at home). While I have no objections to the local languages being taught in schools as suggested, more focus should be placed on teaching international languages that have more spread worldwide (like Chinese, French,and possibly German, Spanish.


Besides, making French compulsory makes a lot of sense as many of our neighbors in Nigeria speak French, and our knowledge of French as a second national language would forge better commercial and interpersonal relationships.

That countered by:

No. “International languages” are local languages that have been promoted and pushed forward by the locals – when I visited Seville some time ago, I discovered that most Spaniards will pretend not to speak English if you try to converse with them. Same can be said of French people and Germans. By the way, Hausa and Yoruba are also international languages spoken across many countries. While we are at it, BBC & VOA have run Hausa service for years and BBC was working on launching a Yoruba channel last year

language nigeria

..with a counterpoint as:

Like I said, I am not opposed to our local languages being taught as suggested. But, apart from sentiments, would you rather learn Mandarin Chinese, French or German to boost your international marketability, or would you insist that it is better to learn Hausa/Ibo/Yoruba when those certainly don’t have the same kind of wide applicability in international engagements? By all means, teach those local languages, but focus MORE on the more widely spoken international languages.

..which elicited the response…

Honestly, I will insist on learning Yoruba/Hausa/Igbo first. I can always use interpreters for any of the other languages. And in two years, that interpreter need not be human – could well be my mobile phone or a wearable earpiece using a language translation software.

Yet another view:

Misplaced priority… When we are already losing our mother tongue. I agree.Schools should be made to teach our 3 major languages. Also parents have a lot to do by speaking their mother tongue to their wards at home.

I once published an article, Please Identify Yourself where I lamented the degradation of our culture (language inclusive), and the need for us to urgently do something about this.

What’s your point of view here? Should more attention be focused on teaching the local languages? Or, should we emphasize more on preparing our students to be by teaching them the most globally spoken and commercially relevant languages, instead?

What is the role of the parents / guardians in emphasizing our culture,  nurturing more rounded individuals and  preserving our heritage?

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