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OBJ, others celebrate UK-based Nigerian writer, Opeyemi
Saturday, 20 October 2012
From Left: Nigerian Ambassador to the Republic Of Netherlands, Mrs Nimota Akanbi; chief launcher, former President Olusegun Obasanjo; author of the book: “The Blue Ocean: Peace, Power, Prosperity” Miss Antoinette-Rita Opeyemi; her mother, Kehinde, and Nigeria’s High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, Dr Dalhatu Tafida, cutting a cake at the book launch in London, on Monday. Photo: NAN.
SEYI GESINDE writes on the achievement of a United Kingdom-based Nigerian writer, Antoinette-Rita Opeyemi, who recently launched her new book in UK.
AUnited Kingdom-based Nigerian writer, Antoinette-Rita Opeyemi , has launched her new book entitled: The Blue Ocean: Peace, Power, Prosperity in the United Kingdom.
The 21-year-old author, Opeyemi, who developed a passion for writing at the age of six when she received her first certificate for her creative writing in primary school, said she was able to realise on time that writing was an essential part of her life.
After this self discovery, six years later, precisely at the age of 12, Opeyemi received an invitation from the International Society of Poets for a convention and poetry competition held in Florida, United States and she won a Young Poet Award.
Narrating her experience to E2E, Antoinette-Rita, made it known that while growing up, she gained most of her inspiration from her mother who supported her passion.
She, however, said that the fact that her father’s presence in her development wasn’t there, gave her more inspiration to follow her dream regardless of the circumstances and challenges she faced when pursuing her career in creative writing.
Her belief is that even as a resident in a foreign land, the colour of her skin cannot deter her from realising her dream. “You can’t use the colour of your skin as an excuse anymore,” Opeyemi said.
Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, has backed his literary colleague, Prof. Chinua Achebe, in the raging controversy over the roles of some prominent Nigerians during the Nigerian civil war.
Soyinka, in an interview published in The Telegraph of London, but obtained by THISDAY yesterday, said the Igbo were victims of genocide during the three-year civil war, which was fought to break up Nigeria.
Achebe had stirred the hornet's nest in his civil war memoir, "There Was A Country", when among others, he accused wartime Head of State, Gen. Yakubu Gowon and the then Finance Minister, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, of carrying out a genocide against the Igbo.
The claim has generated considerable controversy, with many commentators accusing Achebe of re-writing history.
Soyinka, however, justified the secession bid and described Biafrans as "people who'd been abused, who'd undergone genocide, and who felt completely rejected by the rest of the community, and therefore decided to break away and form a nation of its own."
He also condemned religious militancy, saying now is the time to tackle Boko Haram, the insurgent group that has visited terror on the North, killing over 1,500 since 2009.
The Federal Ministry of Education has assured the public that the standardised and harmonised orthography of four Nigerian languages would be effectively used by teachers, researchers and students to advance the teaching and learning of indigenous languages so as to preserve the country's culture.
Minister of State for Education, Mr. Nyesom Wike, who announced this during the handing and taking over ceremony of the harmonised and standardised orthography of four Nigerian and other related languages, noted that orthography helps in the preservation of local languages by making them amenable to further improvement through research and documentation.
The Nigerian languages that had their standardised and harmonised orthography handed over to the Federal Ministry of Education are: Hausa, Yoruba, Igbo and Ijaw.
According to Wike: "Societies that have documented their indigenous languages continue to influence other societies in a manner that ensures the dominance of their culture and languages. The development of harmonised and standardised orthography in Nigerian languages should be viewed against this background and taken more seriously by all stakeholders if we must curtail the cascading influence of foreign cultures and values on our youths."
The minister stated that the most practical strategy to check the decline in the study, knowledge and usage of indigenous languages is to have them documented.
"The need to do so as a country is strongly supported by the fact that we are a multi-ethnic nation. Consequently, our national literacy and education models must inevitably reflect the extant linguistic and ethnic pluralism."
Revamping Reading Culture In Nigeria
Revamping Reading Culture In Nigeria
Published on September 17, 2012 by pmnews · No Comments
By Funmi Fasipe
According to the online dictionary, reading is defined as a multifaceted process involving word recognition, comprehension, fluency and motivation. Reading isn’t about escaping into the world of fiction- it is also about providing context to our environment- both real and imagined. But reading in the context of this piece, is reading for a purpose that will enhance intellectual and socio-economic development. Reading habit is having a strong desire to read everything ‘readable’ every time and everywhere.
A popular maxim says ‘readers are leaders’ and amongst the things that affect people in life includes the books they read. Reading is one of the best ways for training and bringing up children. Reading for pleasure is the key to developing these skills. A good book has a salutary effect on the mind of its reader. It elevates the spirit and thoughts. It augments his store of knowledge. Books help in correcting moral ineptitude, especially in these days of mechanical existence, the best source of acquiring knowledge are books. Reading brings about a revolutionary change in the outlook of a person. It keeps a person busy when he has nothing else to do.
Embracing a reading culture is vital to the individual and to the overall development of any nation. The significance of reading in a nation’s development cannot be overemphasised. It is essential to uphold a reading culture to checkmate literacy from reverting to illiteracy. No country can dream of meaningful development if its citizens cannot read. An enlightened citizenry can readily be mobilized for the attainment of political, social and economic goals of a nation.
It is, however, sad that the reading culture is fast declining across the world. The declining interest in reading, especially among youths today, is a cause for alarm and a challenge to all. In Nigeria, for instance, it is, perhaps, safe to say that reading culture has died. Except, perhaps, in the case of students who must read to pass examinations or for any other such involuntary factors, the culture of reading is fast fading in the society. In most tertiary institution, academic libraries get filled up to the brim only when exam is at hand. Today, the youth will rather listen to all sorts of music; watch the English Premiership and party around.
The reasons for the decline in reading culture are not far- fetched. For one, reading is a tasking exercise that involves full concentration. Second, in our society today, nobody is interested in embarking on any activity that has no corresponding financial gains. Third, our socio-economic environment is not reading friendly. The daily struggle for economic survival provides little or no time for people, especially those living in the cities, to cultivate a good reading habit. Also, the decline in the standard of education in the country has seriously affected reading culture in the country. Equally, high cost of books, particularly the imported ones, has contributed to a decline in reading culture in the country.
It is, nevertheless, encouraging to note that the National Library is gradually coming up with strategies to stimulate reading culture in the country. This it has been doing by organizing seminars, workshops as well as other public enlightenment devices that could enhance the revamping of reading culture in the country. Equally, the National Library has embarked upon a plan to expand libraries across all states in the country. Recently, the Benue State branch was inaugurated while in due course the prototype branches in Bauchi and Yola will be commissioned. According to the chairman of the National Library Board, Alhaji Zannah Mustapha, the board is committed to fostering the growth of development of knowledge and also deepens the experience and the enhancement of skills in the country by making the recorded knowledge freely available.
In Lagos State, the state government has been embarking on programmes and activities that encourage reading culture. In recent time, the government has made the annual World Literacy Day one of the most celebrated in the state’s official calendar. Indeed, in one of the editions, the State Governor, Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola (SAN) read a whole book to the pupils of St. Paul Anglican Primary School, Alausa, Ikeja. In another edition, it was the Nobel Laurel, Professor Wole Soyinka, that read a book to the pupils while on another occasion, the Deputy Governor, Mrs. Adejoke Orelope Adefulire broke Guinness World Record after reading to over three thousand (3000) students and also reading along with about four thousand five hundred (4500) pupils the book: ‘Time Changes Yesterday’ written by Ngengi Koin.
Similarly, the Lagos State Government has adopted a policy of “No Child left Behind” by making basic education free, qualitative and compulsory for all children regardless of ethnic backgrounds. In order to create and sustain awareness on the benefits of a robust reading culture, government has equally conceived the ‘Eko Akete’ reading programme to encourage children to embrace reading culture. Also, government has rebuilt the Broad Street library to an ICT Centre cum library where resources running into millions could be easily accessed by interested users. Aside this, Lagos has over eleven public libraries with at least one in each of the five divisions in the state. The State’s Public Service Library is equally well stocked with books and well managed by professionals. In all, the state government has massively invested in the acquisition of books for its libraries across the state.
To revamp the culture of reading in the country, parents are the first agents in encouraging reading habits in the society. Governments, librarians and other non-governmental organizations should be given maximum support to build up a society that comprises of intellectuals and educated minds. Every nursery, primary and tertiary institution needs to launch a readership promotion campaign which will help to inculcate the culture of reading in the children. Governments across the country must begin to subsidize the cost of publishing essential books to encourage local production. There is also an urgent need for Governments across the land to build more libraries to accommodate more users in areas yet to be reached. Private organisations, individuals, NGOs should help in the provision of infrastructures which would stimulate and foster good reading habit.
The absence of a widespread culture of reading is an effective barrier to a civilised political culture and economic prosperity. For our country to attain the socio-economic height of our dreams and aspirations, we need to develop literate citizens that are able to read widely and apply it practically for development. It is, therefore, essential to make the present generation further conscious of the importance of reading as well as ensure that they have the required literacy skills in our contemporary society.
•Fasipe, a student of the University of Ilorin, is on Industrial Attachment with the Features Unit, Ministry of Information and Strategy, Alausa, Ikeja
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STAKEHOLDERS CALLS FOR PUBLICATION OF WORKS IN PIDGIN ENGLISH
Thursday, 06 September 2012 06:09 .................
In furtherance of the resolve to promote literature, arts and creativity in Nigeria, the Federal Ministry of Education/NMEC, National Institute for Nigerian Languages, United Nations Education Scientific and Cultural Organisation, UNESCO, and other stakeholders in the development of multilingualism in delivering effective teaching and learning in Nigeria, have called for submission of unpublished plays written in Nigerian Pidgin for subsequent translation into ‘Naija langwej’.
According to information made available on the Association of Nigeria Authors, Abuja chapter’s facebook page, interested writers are to submit manuscripts of their plays of (3) Acts, adding that such work should be forwarded on or before31st November, 2012 to: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Naija langwej, also popularly addressed as Nigerian pidgin is unarguably the most widely spoken language in Nigeria. It is serving as the natural bridge between the multi-ethnic groups that make up the country. The government and multi-national corporations use it to reach out to millions of people via the media, arts, entertainment, amongst others, the association stated.
It recalled that “After IFRA-Nigeria’s conference on Nigerian Pidgin (2009) and the creation of a working autography for the language, Something for Everybody Ventures, Abuja called for the submission of poems in Nigerian Pidgin. Selected poems were translated into Naija langwej and published in an anthology of poems titled If Yu Hie Se A De Prizin (2012) edited by Eriata Oribhabor”.
Furthermore, ten selected plays will be published in an anthology of plays and three of the plays will be produced/directed by Naija Ple Haus, Abuja and presented live on stage next year. Also, Authors of the best three plays will be given cash awards in this order (1st Prize $400, 2nd Prize-$250 and 3rd Prize – $150).
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has stated that there are an estimated 40 to 45million illiterate persons in Nigeria.
UNESCO Country Representative Dr Joseph Ngu made this revelation at the Roundtable on "Cultivating Peace" in Celebration of 2012 International Literacy Day in Abuja yesterday, said Nigeria is one of the countries among the E9 countries where education is a problem and the only one in sub-Sahara Africa, because it has above a 100 million people.
He said that "the UN office in Nigeria had a three-year project "Revitalizing Adult and Youth literacy" which they hope will make a dent in the number of illiterate people in Nigeria, even if it is only 4 to 6 million people."
On his part, UN Resident Coordinator, Mr Daouda Taoure, remarked that a recent survey conducted by Nigeria's National Bureau of Statistics estimates that that the adult literacy rate was 56.9 percent with huge variations between states, adding that while Lagos had 88 %, Yobe had only 14 %.
He maintained that while urban areas had 75 % and rural 48 %, males had 65 percent, while females had 49 %.
He added that "Statistics from the Ministry of Education, showed that 500,000 of the 40 million adult illiterates were enrolled in adult classes, while 3.5 million nomadic school aged children had only 450,000 accessing any form of schooling, while enrolment of children into schools in some states was as low as 12.0%"
Literacy and Peace was the theme for this year’s International Literacy Day, which was celebrated on September 8. Adewale Oshodi examines the connection between literacy and peace in the country.
EVERY September 8 is the International Literacy Day, proclaimed by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), and its aim is to highlight the importance of literacy to individuals, communities and societies. On the day each year, UNESCO reminds the international community of the benefits of literacy and learning globally. It further links illiteracy with countries facing severe poverty, as well as on prejudice against women.
According to UNESCO’s Global Monitoring Report on Education for All, sub-Saharan Africa still has one of the lowest regional literacy rates, and not much is being done towards raising the level in this part of the world. This should, therefore, give everybody a cause for concern, especially the fact that there is a link between illiteracy and violence, and going by what is happening in most African countries, South of the Sahara, it is high time the authorities took the issue of literacy seriously.
Firstly, in Nigeria, the Boko Haram insurgency in the North has been blamed on the high level of illiteracy in that part of the country, and going by UNESCO’s analysis, illiteracy also results in poverty.
The truth is that, this analysis is a direct reflection of what is happening in Northern Nigeria, where a larger percentage of the people are not able to read or write. This, therefore, makes it easy for them to be indoctrinated, and little wonder we have young and able-bodied men who could contribute positively to the economic development of the country, accepting to be agents of death through suicide bombings.
"Born a child." Nigerian children almost never conjugate the verb "bear" to reflect tense when they refer to the act of having babies. So expressions like "my mum born a child yesterday," "my auntie will born twins next month," etc. are very typical. But "born" (or borne) is the past participle of "bear," and the past tense of "bear" is "bore." That means the first sentence should have read "my mum bore a child yesterday" or, better still, "my mum gave birth to a child/had a baby yesterday."
The unconjugated "born" is clearly derived from Nigerian Pidgin English where the word is always uninflected for tense. Examples: "My mama born pikin yesterday" [my mom had a baby yesterday], "My sister go born pikin tomorrow" [my sister will have a baby tomorrow], "The woman dey born pikin now" [the woman is having a baby now], "The woman no fit born pikin" [the woman can't bear a child]. In the above examples, "born" remains unchanged even whether reference is made to the past, the present, or the future.
"Very well." Nigerian children use "very well" to heighten the intensity of what they are saying. For instance, if they want to say their teacher beat them up at school really hard, they would say something like: "my teacher beat me very well." This will confound many native English speakers.
In native-speaker English varieties, the expression "very well" often conveys at least three senses. In the first sense, it's used to mean "quite well" as in: "he did his job very well." Unlike the way Nigerian children sometimes use the expression, it always has a tone of approval; it's never used to intensify negative things. "Very well" is also used to weaken the effect of modal auxiliaries like "may," "might," "can," and "could." Example: "he may very well come." The "very well" in the sentence increases the probability that he will come. It is more assuring than merely saying "he may come." Finally, "very well" is a fixed phrase that usually occurs at the beginning of a sentence when a speaker in a dialogue wants to indicate grudging agreement with something the other speaker says. Example:
Speaker A: I don't want to go home now.
Speaker B: Very well then, let's go home when you're ready.
"Vacate." This is a popular word used in educational institutions in Nigeria to mean "take an official break from school." It is a back-formation from "vacation," the American English word for what British speakers call holiday. (In British English, vacation is only used to indicate the formal, temporary closure of universities and courts of law, not primary or secondary schools).
It is no longer news that September 8 was proclaimed International Literacy Day by UNESCPO on November 17, 1965 with the aim to highlight the importance of literacy to individuals, communities and societies.
A recent national literacy survey conducted by NMEC in collaboration with the National Bureau of Statistics in Nigeria, estimates adult literacy rate at 56.9 percent, with huge variations between states, regions and sex.
The expectation of the federal government is to attain an additional 50 per cent enrolment in mass literacy and 30 percent increase enrolment in nomadic education by 2015. to this end, the federal government, through the MDG office, in 2009 released the sum of one billion naira seed money in trust to UNESCO for revitalizing adult and youth literacy in the country.
The federal government has stated its commitment to make Nigeria one of the world’s leading economies come 2020. It has tried to put in place some modalities that will help achieve the laudable dream. One does not need to be told that education is a catalyst for the attainment of such. Little wonder, the federal government has targeted 2015 as the magic year when it hopes to give basic education to every Nigerian.
My two-month summer vacation in Nigeria this year gave me a heightened awareness of the distinctive character of the English that Nigerian children speak. My daughter, who has had the benefit of living and going to school in Nigeria before relocating to the United States, helped me to identify this distinctive usage of English among Nigerian children.
In what follows, I chronicle a sample of the errors and peculiar usage patterns that my daughter and I noticed among both Nigerian children for whom English is a "native second language" (refer to my last week's write-up to know what that means) and those for whom it is a second language.
I have left out learners' errors that children (including children in native-speaker environments) often make and overcome as they grow older. I have instead isolated only common, recurring errors that are the consequence of children copying their parents, teachers, and peers.
1. Fusion of Pidgin English and Standard English. In Nigeria, even highly educated speakers of the English language routinely--and deliberately-- mix codes, that is, speak Standard English, Pidgin English, and Nigerian native languages all at once in one speech act. Look at this sentence, for instance: "Shebi the bobo wan show say he is the best thing that has happened to the world since sliced bread." Shebi is a Yoruba word that appears to be an intensifier used at the beginning of interrogative sentences. Bobo is the Nigerian Pidgin English word for "man," "wan show say" is the lexical equivalent of "wants to show that" in English, and the rest of the sentence is standard, idiomatic English. These kinds of constructions are usually intended to achieve comical effects and are confined to informal contexts.
Many native English speakers have asked me if there are native speakers of the English language in Nigeria. My answer is always that there are native English speakers in Nigeria--depending, of course, on what one means by "native speakers." I will explain what I mean shortly.
Increasingly, thousands of Nigerian children in urban areas--and especially in southern Nigeria--are growing up monolingual; the only language they speak is English. They don't even speak Nigerian Pidgin English self-consciously. That technically makes English their "mother tongue" (although their biological mothers may not speak English as a native tongue) and them "native speakers" of the English language (although they are geographically located in a part of the world where"traditional" native speakers--Brits, Americans, Canadians, Australians, New Zealanders, etc.--don't live). So what kind of "native" English speakers are Nigeria's English-speaking urban children?
Before I answer that question, I will like to briefly discuss the categories of English speakers that scholars have identified over the years. The first is"English-as-a-native-language" speakers who live mostly in the West--and in white southern Africa--and who acquire the language effortlessly because it is the language of their parents and of their immediate surroundings. But "nativeness" in language isn't solely about ethnic identity or culture. It can also be determined by the sequentiality of language acquisition, that is, by determining which language one spoke from birth even if that language isn't the native language of one's parents. A child born to Chinese immigrants in the USA or Britain who speaks only English, for instance, is a native English speaker.
Then you have "English-as-a-second-language" speakers. Speakers of English as a second language come from countries where people have a first--and sometimes a second, even third-- language before they learn English, but where English is not only a school subject but also the language of instruction for all subjects at all or most levels of education. In these mostly linguistically plural countries, English often functions as the lingua franca and as the language of the media, government, the courts, elite social interaction, etc. Nigeria, Ghana, India, Kenya, Bangladesh, etc. are examples of countries with English-as-a-second language speakers. English-as-a-second-language speakers can, and often do, achieve near-native proficiency in the language if they work hard at it.
Peacock College United Kingdom, a subsidiary of Nigeria-based Peacock Travels and Tours Group is offering 100 percent scholarship to Nigerian companies willing to send their employees abroad for short business, management and air travel-related courses.
A statement by the UK company quoted the college principal, Mr Zenon Adamek as saying that the scholarship is meant to celebrate the Queen's Golden Jubilee, the Olympics Games 2012 and Nigeria's 52nd independence anniversary.
Adamek said it is meant to serve as an introductory programme for the college's new academic programme, which starts in 2013.
The statement quoted the principal as saying, "Peacock College UK is offering a full scholarship programme on selected courses in October for employees in Nigerian companies.
"We believe the offer will allow companies in Nigeria to sample the most popular business and management courses we have on offer."
Each of the course costs £4,372. The principal explained that the courses lasting for five days will be conducted for several weeks in October.
Translated into Persian by Ali Hodavand, Things Fall Apart, a novel by Chinua Achebe has been released in Iran.
THE classic novel, Things Fall Apart by the master novelist, Prof. Chinua Achebe, which was published in 1958, is seen as the archetypal modern African novel in English, and one of the first African novels written in English to receive global critical acclaim.
It is a staple book in schools throughout Africa and widely read and studied in English-speaking countries around the world. The title of the novel comes from William Butler Yeats’s poem, “The Second Coming”.
The novel depicts the life of Okonkwo, a leader and local wrestling champion in Umuofia—one of a fictional group of nine villages in Nigeria, inhabited by the Igbo people (archaically, and in the novel, “Ibo”). It focuses on his family and personal history, the customs and society of the Igbo, and the influence of British colonialism and Christian missionaries on the Igbo community during the late nineteenth century.
My May 13, 2012 column titled "The Arabic origins of common Yoruba words" elicited interesting reactions. These reactions can be categorized into three: outrage that I dare suggest that Arabic has any influence on the Yoruba language, claims that the presence of Arabic words in Yoruba is linguistic evidence of the age-old myth that the ancestral provenance of Yoruba people is actually traceable to the Middle East, and contestations of the accuracy of the Arabic etymology of some of the Yoruba words my article highlighted.
The first reaction isn't worthy of a serious response because it is inspired by visceral, knee-jerk, and pity-inspiring ignorance. Every living, progressive language in the world borrows from other languages. Any language that stops borrowing will sooner or later die. That's an enduring truth about languages. Borrowing isn't suggestive of weakness; it's mere linguistic self-preservation. After all, English, the world's most widely spoken language, is also the world's greatest beneficiary of loan words from other languages.
As for the suggestion that the presence of swaths of Arabic words in Yoruba is indicative of the Middle Eastern origins of Yoruba people, nothing could be more ridiculous than that. First, for historical reasons, Arabic loan words started to appear in Yoruba only from about the 15th century at the peak of the Trans- Saharan Trade. Before then, there was no shred of linguistic evidence that Arabic and Yoruba had had any relationship.
Second, the Middle Eastern myths of origin that most Nigerian ethnic groups cherish about themselves are basically nineteenth-century fictions that British colonialists helped to popularize in order to create collective identities among our disparate ethnic and linguistic groups. Like all myths of origin, they have no basis in truth.