Biliteracy and the Attainment of Sustainable Development in Multilingual Nigeria

Article excerpt


Nigeria with a population of over 120 million is the most populated country in Africa. With more than 450 ethnic groups speaking over 390 different languages, Nigeria thus has language diversity which makes bilingualism/multilingualism inevitable. It has enormous human and material resources with Nigeria being the seventh in terms of countries with crude oil reserves. When Nigeria obtained its independence from Great Britain in 1960, the black race both in Africa and in the Diaspora, looked up to it for leadership in the area of Science, Technology, Agriculture and Education to mention a few. However, forty eight years after independence, Nigeria has failed to provide the expected leadership.

Going by the UNDP, Human Development Index (HDI) survey, Nigeria occupies 151st position out of 174 poor nations surveyed in 2000. According to the World Bank's recent statistics, Nigeria is among the 10 nations in the world that has the lowest literacy rate with over sixty five per cent of its adult population being illiterate. Since the most literate nations in the world are amongst the most developed, our inescapable conclusion is that the more literate a nation is, the more it will be able to attain sustainable development. Thus in other words, Nigeria can not attain sustainable development given the high rate of illiteracy in the country.

In the rest of this paper, I shall do four things. First, I shall argue that since traditional Nigerian education did not transcend from oracy to literacy, it lacked the capacity to empower its people with the knowledge, attitudes and skills that could have enabled them to promote sustainable development in the land. Second, I shall argue that the entrenchment of monolingual education as a result of the overbearing influence of English in Nigeria is responsible for the absence of the biliteracy/multiliteracy needed for the empowerment of Nigerians to develop their land. Third, I shall draw attention to some internationally funded attempts to revamp literacy in the land. I shall give reasons why they failed. Finally, I shall suggest measures that can enhance biliteracy/multiliteracy in a multilingual Nigeria so that Nigerians can have the empowerment for actualizing sustainable development in the land.

Bilingualism in Nigerian Traditional Education

In a number of ways, bilingualism was a critical factor in Nigeria before the advancement of colonial rule. For instance, inter and intra commercial activities were predicated by bilingualism. Each ethnic group had to learn the language of others in order to participate effectively and prosperously in their commercial activities. Inter and intra religious affinities, governance and initiation into man/womanhood were undertaken across ethnic boundaries. For instance, in the former Eastern Nigeria the Ekpe and Okonkon cults were vital instruments that predicated governance, religion and initiation into guilds and manhood in the area. Inter and intra ethnic communication was vital if one were to play a crucial role in such cults. One very vital area in which bilingualism played a very crucial role in the life and culture of the people is education. The ability to communicate beyond ethnic boundaries enabled them to develop laudable arts and crafts, science and technologies that also enabled them not only to survive in their environments but also to interrelate and interact with the wider world. For instance, the famous Nok Terra Cotta technology, which started in 500BC, traversed a vast area. From Benue state in North Central Nigeria to Sokoto and Bornu in North Western and Northern Eastern Nigeria, the Nok Terra Cotta technology held sway. Archeologists tell us that the technology was amongst the best Terra Cotta technologies there were in the world at that time (Fagg, 1977). Although Nok was at the epicenter of the technology, it was through bilingualism that people from the diverse ethnic groups, where the technology was, shared the experiences and expertise that made the Terra Cotta technology to peak and excel.

Apart from the Terra Cotta technology, there were other technological feats which Nigeria attained before the coming of colonial rule. For instance, regarding textile technology, the sailors of Prince Henry the Navigator in the 15th century(AD) found that textile materials produced in the Benin kingdom were comparable to and even better than what the Portuguese were searching for in the Far East. Besides, there were great iron and metal foundries in Akwa in the Bight of Biafara. The foundries provided the metal ware that was used in the agricultural industries in most of the Gulf of Guinea. Some of the chains and fetters that were used in the Trans Atlantic slave trade were also produced in such foundries. Anyone familiar with the famous Benin brass wares and Ife bronze heads will readily agree that the technology that informed their production was quite high and outstanding.

It was through bilingual education that most of the ethnic groups in Nigeria were able to share the knowledge, attitudes and skills that gave rise to the technologies. Thus, we can conclude that through bilingual education it was possible for the diverse ethnic groups in Nigeria to share common fate in commerce, industry, science and technology, religion etc.

The primary medium of bilingual education then was oral. However, before the traditional education in Nigeria could develop a literacy content to support its oral medium, the Trans Atlantic slave trade came and carted away the youth who in their various guilds and ethnic groups were the repositories of the knowledge, attitudes and skills which they perpetuated through oral transmission. Besides, the European slave traders brought in diseases like small pox, chicken pox etc., which were alien to the land and for which the people had no natural immunity. Thus a good deal of the young men and women who escaped being carted away to America as slaves died when epidemics of the alien diseases struck. Education and development in the land accordingly came virtually to a stand still. Since there was no literacy component of traditional education at that time, there was no record of the various significant achievements in science, technology, religion, history etc. which were indigenous to the people. There was therefore no way that succeeding generations of Nigerians after the slave trade could read about the achievements of their ancestors. They were thus unable to know the strengths and challenges which their ancestors encountered through traditional education which at the family level was monolingual but bilingual at the inter and intra ethnic levels. Besides, they were thus incapacitated from improving on the strengths of their ancestors or addressing their challenges. Although, we cannot easily classify the bilingual education that existed at that time in terms of Cummins(2003) bilingual education categories, there is no doubt that bilingualism was a central pivot of the traditional education with which Nigerians before the coming of the colonial master perpetuated their culture, science and technology, religion, history etc. In any case, the only major significant challenge which bilingual education in Nigeria had at that time was its inability to develop a literacy component. This was compounded by the disastrous transatlantic slave trade that denied Nigerians the use of their young men and women in promoting sustainable development in the land.

Entrenching Monolingual and Monoliteracy Education in Nigeria

At the end of the slave trade in the 19th century, Britain as the colonizing power in Nigeria, decided to introduce the 3C's as reparation for the harm done to the people during the slave trade. The 3C's--Christianity, Commerce and Civilization (Fagg, 1964) became the underlying principle that informed British governance of Nigeria at that time. Nigerian traditional religion was to be replaced by Christianity; its commerce by the British commerce and its culture by British civilization.

Although the 3C's was ostensibly set up as a kind of reparation, it was even more humiliating and more damaging to the people than the slave trade. For instance, by imposing Christianity, the colonial power implied that Nigerian indigenous religion was inferior to Christianity. Similarly, there was no respect and regard for indigenous commerce and culture as Britain went ahead to impose on the land what it felt was the ideal commerce and civilization. Underlying the 3C's was a subtle but unfortunate attempt to destroy the people's culture and whatever value was left in their civilization.

Underlying Nigerian culture, commerce and religion is language. Replacing them of course would mean replacing the people's indigenous language. It would therefore make the people to lose their self esteem, ignore their flora and fauna, abandon their traditional education, and deny them the natural endowment of critical and creative thinking, which can only be most effectively and efficiently nurtured by the mother tongue. At best it would make them British robots.

In spite of its demeaning aspects, the 3C's had one immediate outcome that was healthy and positive to the people. This was the introduction of formal education and the setting up of institutions--schools and colleges--in line with British formal education. Formal education in Nigeria would inevitably lead to the introduction of literacy. Two of the 3 Rs'--Reading and Writing--which formed the bed rock of British formal education at that time--Arithmetic, Reading and Writing--are the pivots of literacy. Since the colonial administration had come with its language English and since literacy in English was inevitable in a formal education setting, one would have thought that biliteracy--literacy in a Nigerian mother tongue and literacy in English--would be entrenched in the land. Unfortunately, this was not to be.

The Christian missions that came with the British administration were in the forefront of providing formal education (Dike, 1956, Ajayi, 1965). It is interesting to note that while the Christian missions used the mother tongue as the medium of instruction in their schools, the British colonial administration used English. It is also interesting to note that the demand for formal education was one that the Christian missions could not cope with. The missions therefore applied to the colonial administration for grants in-aids in order to enable them to meet the aspirations of the people. However, the colonial administration was only willing to give grants in-aid to schools where English and not the mother tongue was the medium of instruction. Although the Christian mission knew that education was best offered through the mother tongue, they had to change to English as a medium of instruction in order to get the grants they needed badly. This unfortunate policy of deliberately promoting English at the expense of the Nigerian mother tongues led to the unfortunate promotion of monoliteracy as against the expected emergence of biliteracy in English and the Nigerian mother tongue. The development of materials to enhance literacy instruction in the mother tongue was stopped. English become the medium of instruction in all primary schools in the country. It didn't take long for the generality of Nigerians to begin to see English as the language for instruction and as the language for self esteem and survival. As a matter of fact, in some parts of Nigeria the use of the mother tongue for communication in school was forbidden as pupils were often punished for using their mother tongue in communicating with their peers. There were two other factors that entrenched English monolingualism and monoliteracy in the Nigerian school system. The first is the aftermath of the Six Year Primary Project (SYPP) (Afolayan, 2001) hosted by the University of Ife. The second is the lack of the political will to implement the language component of the Nigerian National Policy on Education (NPE publication 1999).

The Six Year Primary Project

The SYPP was an action research experiment that was packaged by the Western Nigerian Ministry of Education and the University of Ife now Obafemi Awolowo University. It was funded by the Ford Foundation (Ojerinde, 1970, Afolayan, 2001). The SYPP proved beyond reasonable doubts that when Nigerian pupils are taught through their mother tongue, they in all school subjects and the English Language perform better than pupils who are taught through the English-medium. This exciting and exemplary study however failed to promote interest in the use of the mother tongue in Nigerian schools and colleges for three reasons.

First, the designers of SYPP failed to carry along the Nigerian academia before and during the implementation of the project. The advocacy that was needed to carry along the people in a project of this magnitude was not done and where it was done at all, it was very minimal and ineffective. Thus the greatest hostility against the use of the mother tongue came from the Nigerian academia, technocrats and highly placed civil servants, politicians and parents. With such an array of highly placed Nigerians against the seemingly strange findings of SYPP, there was no way the mother tongue could have been upgraded to take precedence over English as the medium of instruction. The second factor was that specialist teachers in English and the mother tongue (Yoruba) were used in the experimental group. From time to time, seminars, workshops and conferences were organized to enhance the knowledge, attitudes and skills of the experimental teachers. Besides, there was a profuse supply of instructional materials, teaching aids etc. and a close monitoring and supervision of the experimental group teachers. Since similar steps were not taken on behalf of the control group, one could as the devil's advocate argue that what caused the change in the performances of children was not really the use of the mother tongue. Rather it was the better teaching, monitoring and resources made available to the experimental and not the control group teachers. It would thus seem that in the final analysis in the implementation of the SYPP, teacher effectiveness was more central in the action research and could have made more impact than the mother tongue. The use of the mother tongue was therefore seemingly tangential to it. Thirdly, many scholars questioned the rationale of inventing words for expressing concepts which are in English and which are not in the mother tongue. Given the fact that language is dynamic, the belief of some scholars is that the concepts in English, which are not in the mother tongue, should not have been artificially provided for. The mother tongue would have done so without the designers of the experiment making adhoc provisions for them. The deliberate invention of words looked quite unnatural in the eyes of a critical academia; this made the entire findings suspect. Since the SYPP failed to convince its closest and immediate clientele, the university academia and the generality of educated Nigerians regarding the use of the mother tongue as a medium of instruction, it was not possible for the SYPP to convince Nigerians to adopt a mother tongue medium of instruction. Thus in spite of the apparent and unassailable empirical data in favor of the use of the mother tongue which would have led to the emergence of biliteracy in English and the mother tongue, the use of the mother tongue as a medium of instruction was jettisoned.

The National Policy on Education

In the 1970s, the National Policy on Education (NPE) was formulated. Using the hindsight and the insight gained from the SYPP, the Nigerian government through the NPE insisted as a national policy that in the first three years of primary education, the mother tongue or the language of the immediate community of the child should be used for instruction. During the first three years of primary education, English should be taught as a subject. In the last three years of primary education, English should be the medium of instruction. However in the last three years of primary education i.e. from primary four to six the mother tongue would be taught as a subject on its own. This policy was designed to empower the Nigerian child with literacy in both English and its mother tongue. Every Nigerian child was expected in addition to its mother tongue to learn at least one of the three major Nigerian languages, Igbo, Hausa and Yoruba. That's why paragraph 8 of the NPE states:

In addition to appreciating the importance of language in the educational process, and as a means of preserving the people's culture, the government considers it to be in the interest of national unity that each child should be encouraged to learn one of the three major languages other than his mother tongue. In this connection, government considers the three major languages in Nigeria to be Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba (NPE, Policy document, paragraph 8 1991, p 9)

This requirement would have made the Nigerian school product multilingual and multiliterate. Thus government through the NPE sought to deliberately promote bilingualism/biliteracy and multiligualism/multiliteracy in Nigeria through formal education. In order to ensure that this policy was implemented, government promised that an extensive and intensive teacher education programme would be undertaken so that within the shortest possible time there would be enough competent manpower to implement the language component of the NPE. In addition, government promised that those Nigerian languages that had not been reduced to writing would be reduced to writing so that they can be used as media of instruction. Government also promised to set up a National Institute for Nigerian Languages in order to promote studies in Nigerian languages and to make them veritable tools for teaching and learning. Furthermore, government planned the extensive production of materials for instruction via the mother tongue in order to facilitate the implementation of this aspect of the NPE. Finally, an Inspectorate Wing of the Ministry of Education would be set up to monitor the effective and efficient implementation of the language component of the NPE. Thus the language component of the NPE was designed to ensure that the use of the mother tongue as a medium of instruction for the first 3 years in the Nigerian primary schools becomes the rule and not the exception as it now is.

If this aspect of the NPE were implemented, biliteracy/multiliteracy would have become fully entrenched in the country. Unfortunately again, this was not to be. Past and current governments of Nigeria do not have the political will to rigorously and vigorously implement the language component of the NPE. As a result, English to a very large extent is still the medium of instruction right from primary one in the Nigerian school system. The few cases where the mother tongue is used as the medium for instruction remain the exceptions rather than the rule.

The Risk of Installing Monoliteracy in English

In the previous section we did show that English is the medium of instruction in all levels of our school system. We also implied that if the SYPP findings and the NPE requirements were implemented, the mother tongue of the Nigerian child would have been the medium of instruction in the first three years of primary education. This we argued would have led to the emergence of biliteracy in the child's mother tongue and in English.

The installation of monoliteracy in English in the country by the British colonial administration as we have already pointed out led to a neglect of the mother tongue. Furthermore, by the 1960s it was found that products of Nigerian primary and secondary schools were deficient in English. The Grieve Commission (Banjo, (1966), Afolayan, (1966)) that was set up to examine this phenomenon confirmed the fall in standard. The commission in its report recommended an interactive approach in the teaching and learning of English and the placing of less emphasis on the teaching of English grammar. By the 1980s the situation had so deteriorated that it was clear that the products of both primary and secondary schools were definitely unable to write fluently in English and the mother tongue. Omojuwa gives an awful picture of the fall in the standard of English when he contends that 'the focus of public opinion is now secondary schools and concern has now increasingly been expressed about the growing incidence of total illiteracy amongst post-primary pupils. In some cases, the issue is not so much of inefficient reading as it is one of total inability to read and--quite often--in any Nigerian language' (Emphasis mine) (Omojuwa, 1985:100).

The situation continued to worsen to the point that even graduates of Nigerian universities are unable to receive and give information fluently in English. (Onukaogu 1989, Aboderin 1984, Abbey 1984, Okezie Ugbo 1984). Tinuoye (1997) sees the inability of our undergraduates to effectively and efficiently receive and give information in English as a national crisis:

A remark bordering on alarm has even been made by Umolu (1988) who sees the problem of low reading ability as a national crisis because of the pervasive nature of poor academic performance in higher institution of learning nationwide. The annual mass failure in WAEC result in English language is an attestation to the fact that most students do not read instructions, or even questions, with sufficient comprehension. This no doubt led to the hue and cry about the literacy level of the products of our secondary schools as well as tertiary institutions (see Oluikpe 1984). Dan Agbese (1989) actually lamented the country's educational investment in failure rather than success (emphasis mine). (Tinuoye, (1997) p. 71)

The woeful performance of the Nigerian undergraduate in receiving and giving information in English led the National Universities Commission (NUC) to try revamping communication skills teaching and learning in Nigerian universities. NUC in collaboration with British Oversea Administration (ODA) mounted the Communication Skills Project (COMSKIP).

COMSKIP was initially designed for all conventional federal universities. Later the Universities of Science and Technology and Universities of Agriculture were added. It was a four year programme in which specialists in English Language Education were brought from Britain "to teach" their Nigerian counterparts what they felt were "the ideal and best approaches". Workshops, seminars, conferences and institutional training programs were mounted by COMSKIP to enable all staff involved in the Use of English (UOE) program, to acquire what "British experts" felt were most appropriate skills and strategies for the improvement of the teaching of UOE.UOE is the Nigerian model or approach in the teaching of communication skills in English. Some UOE staff were sent to British universities to acquire more competence in English language teaching at the post graduate levels. Some collaborative studies among staff involved in communication skill teaching were undertaken in order to understand more clearly the challenges facing the UOE program in Nigerian universities.

COMSKIP did not make the desired impact it was expected to. Onukaogu and Olowo have argued that the inability of COMSKIP to evolve an appropriate pedagogic philosophy to inform the UOE curriculum was fatal to its objectives. This situation did not provide any focus or direction to Use of English teachers regarding what paradigm to follow in the teaching of communication skills. A situation in which any teacher could do what it liked without recourse to current and proven trends in communication skills teaching was definitely fatal to communication skill teaching in Nigerian universities. Secondly, COMSKIP failed to address the role of training in the effectiveness of the communication skills teacher. Although the project document said:

It is intended to carry out the above through improving resources in Nigerian Federal universities, and provide training both in the country and in Britain, on two levels - on the practical level for existing classroom Use of English teachers and on a more theoretical level, applied linguistics training for those working in departments (COMSKIP Project document, 1988, p.1),

the issue of a teacher education programme that should succeed the project in enhancing the professional and academic growth of UOE teachers was made an exclusion. See for example, 3.3.2 as the project document specifies: "This project will not focus specifically on language teacher education," (COMSKIP Project document, 1988, p.1emphasis mine).

One other factor that led to the ineffectiveness of COMSKIP was the subtle attempt of the British Council, the body that packaged COMSKIP for ODA and NUC to replace the UOE program in Nigerian universities with English for Academic Purposes (EAP). Although there was no empirical evidence to show that EAP was a better model for teaching communication skills than the UOE, the British Council not only recommended its replacement with EAP but also funded the establishment of the Nigerian Association of Lecturers of English for Academic Purposes (NALEAP) in order to make the replacement of UOE inevitable. Of course when COMSKIP wound up in 1994, no lasting and durable foundation was laid for the teaching of communication skills. Meanwhile COMSKIP had crippled UOE and put it in bad light. Today available evidence shows that Nigerian undergraduates have not shown any marked improvement in their ability to receive and give information in English. The generality of the products of Nigerian universities and other tertiary institutions in the country cannot efficiently, effectively and fluently communicate in English.

Another attempt was made to improve the English language competence by focusing on the primary school level. This attempt known as Literacy Enhancement and Achievement Program (LEAP) was packaged by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). It was designed to improve the English language competence of primaries four to six pupils in Kano, Nassarawa and Lagos states. It used English as its medium of instruction. In spite of its achievements, the overall surrender value of LEAP left much to be desired. Since the mother tongue of the pupils who took part in LEAP was not initially and adequately provided for, the surrender value of LEAP like COMSKIP fell below expectations. Our inescapable conclusion is that the deliberate installing of monoliteracy in Nigerian schools did not even improve English as a Second Language (ESL). Instruction and use in Nigerian institutions.

We can say that both COMSKIP and LEAP failed because literacy in the mother tongue, which was needed as a foundation tool for the learners, was not provided for. Thus rather than English building on the natural endowment of the mother tongue of Nigerian learners, it hindered them. Tierney's contention that in:

The area of literacy, educators have been quick to impose literacy practices deemed successful in one setting which may prove ineffectual and/or rejected in another. The work in early literacy and community based literacy initiatives has highlighted the importance of literacy development proceeding from the literacy practices valued by those communities rather than what outsiders might consider worthwhile. (Tierney, 2007),

is very true of COMSKIP and LEAP in ignoring the role the Nigerian mother tongue can play in enhancing learning. Since the colonial administration failed to heed such basic and fundamental principles, they not only crippled the emergence of biliteracy/multiliteracy in Nigeria, they hindered the acquisition of excellence in English. It is to us indisputable that "when one disregards the heritage, values and cultural practices of the groups, one is hoping to support; other tensions may arise as international developments collide with issues such as mother tongue, cultural practices and so on. Within the larger context of global forces, there may be cultural, social, economic and linguistic oppression (Tierney 2007)."

Biliteracy and the attainment of Sustainable National Development (SND) in Nigeria

We agree with Onukaogu that Nigeria must attain sustainable development if the country is to overcome the culture of scarcity which is now endemic in the land and which has made life unbearable to the people (Onukaogu, 1998). According to him:

SND which in recent years has been used as index for measuring national growth, is a process in which "The exploitation of the resources, the duration of investment, the orientation of technological development and institutional changes are consistent with future and present needs" (World Commission on Environmental Development, 1987). To achieve SND there must be deliberate policies which: (a) Catalyses growth while reducing poverty, (b) Facilitate the provision and efficient utilization of sanitation and health services, in order to improve living standards, (c) Empower the masses and involve them in vital decisions that affect

their destiny and civilization, (d) Encourage programs which discourage population explosions in order to reduce the pressure on national resource base, (e) Enhance science and technological advancement especially for increasing productivity in environmentally sound ways and (f) Enable the generality of people to acquire competencies for the effective and efficient management and renewal of resources. More specifically for the purpose of empowering the generality of the Nigerian illiterate adult workforce and products of our school system through literacy, so that they facilitate the attainment of SND, any literacy program designed for them must minimally achieve four objectives. First, it must empower them to facilitate good governance at the home, community, local government, state and federal levels. Secondly, it must empower them to maximally and optimally understand, domesticate and exploit their environment in order to enhance their standard of living. Such empowerment must include the ability to effectively and efficiently manage and renew the resources in their environments. Thirdly, they must be empowered not to hinder or frustrate market policies put in place by government. Finally, they must be empowered to effectively disseminate information at least at the home and community levels (Onukaogu, 1998, p 273).

If SND is to succeed, the local community must play a central role. We fully agree that:

The local level--the level of the individual, community and locality--is where ecosystems are conserved or destroyed, needs are met or frustrated, and ecological, social, and economic factors are integrated. Governments and international organizations can help people to develop sustainably but cannot do it for them. Communities and individuals need to be empowered to adopt sustainable lives, through education and training; and by increasing their control of the resources they use, their participation in conservation and development projects, and their influence on decisions that affect them. (World Conservation Strategy for the 1990s)

Since communication in the local community is best carried through the mother tongue that is why we suggest that literacy in the mother tongue is sine qua non. Literacy in the mother tongue would empower the learner from childhood days to draw from the resources in the home, its immediate community and its school environment. Such empowerment would make it possible for the child to draw from the natural endowment of its mother tongue which would more naturally facilitate problem solving, comprehension of its flora and fauna and thinking critically and creatively.

We also fully agree with Afolayan that:

One certainty about illiterates is their general immobility, their virtual restriction to their various social, political, economic, and religious activities. This means that it is the language of their immediate environment that is most suited to be the tool of their personal liberating literacy as well as their family economic enhancement (and, even national development) literacy. If that is so, then it is beyond doubt that the adult's mother tongue rather than English is the only effective tool available for (family) literacy for sustainable national development. Such adults, when hitherto illiterate, have been contributing to national development from their local arena of operations according to the limit of their ability. Literacy will hence forth increase their contributions. In contrast, the efforts and expenses to make them obtain and utilize literacy skills for those purposes through the English language will largely be an exercise in futility (Afolayan, 2001, pg 86).

Literacy Empowerment

For the purposes of this paper, literacy empowerment (LE) is not just the ability to read and write. LE enables one to be an effective and efficient speaker, listener, reader and writer (Atwell, 1986). It facilitates literal, interpretive, critical, creative and aesthetic comprehension as well as making one to be not just content with passively receiving and giving information. It therefore enables one to be active in meaning making, negotiation, construction and reconstruction. It fosters information search, storage, retrieval and utilization. LE also provides the enablement for problem solving, the art of inquiry and questioning an author when information search is text based. Apart from the effective and efficient use of language in which the individual is able to rehearse, discuss and dialogue what has been read, LE can also be seen in terms of the print demands of "occupational", civic, community and personal documents. LE therefore involves "the use of all symbols, for personal, community and social communication" (Cases in literacy, 1989, p.5). Thus underlying LE is communication. LE thus pre-supposes the ability to think critically, and to use language effectively in any medium of message conveyance. That is why we agree with Onukaogu (1998) that:

Literacy in the modern sense, especially in view of the impact of electronic media cuts across all shades of human endeavours. In instruction efforts, we will like to consider literacy as "The full array of the communicative arts (reading, writing, speaking, listening, viewing) and to focus on the visual arts of dance, film, video and computer technology: (1997, PI IRA announcement leaflet and order from for the book Handbook of Research on Teaching Literacy Through the Communicative and Visual Arts) (As cited in Onukaogu, 1998, p 274).

Since Nigeria wants to attain SND, then its government must ensure that its citizenry has LE.

Strategies for achieving LE in biliteracy/multiliteracy Education program in Nigeria

We will like to suggest four ways by which literacy empowerment for sustainable national development can be attained. First, we must have a cadre of Nigerian literacy instructors, who are constantly trained and retrained, so that they can be effective and efficient in teaching literacy. Second, we must make sure that books the basic and fundamental tools for literacy instruction are available. Third, we must promote critical and creative thinking through the promotion of reading in all facets of our national life. Finally, we must continue to have a strong advocacy for the use of the mother tongue in our school system, so that every Nigerian will have pride and joy in promoting the mother tongue as a medium of instruction.

Training the Literacy Teacher

It is sad that our school system does not make provision for the training of professional literacy teachers. In the various disciplines we teach in our school system, we employ professionals to teach them. Besides, unless the teachers pass prescribed examinations, they are never recruited to teach. When it comes to literacy, teaching becomes an all comers' affair. We do not have literacy teachers. Anyone who shows some evidence of having a reading and writing skill can be recruited to teach reading or writing or both. We do not see literacy as a discipline that is central to scholarship and the cornerstone of all disciplines. We see it tangentially as a part of the language arts. This is unfortunate. If we are to become a nation of readers and writers, we need to have sound, educated, veteran and highly qualified personnel to teach reading and writing in our schools and colleges. As a matter of fact according to Lieberman "teachers are the core of any improvement effort. We must pay attention to their personal and professional concerns and the ways in which they function as a separate culture in the school", (1984, cited in Welsh, 1989:64). Since we completely agree with Lieberman, we contend that we need to put in place a sound teacher education package for our literacy teachers. Such a package would enable them to have the competencies needed for the effective and efficient teaching of reading and writing. Those who currently teach reading and writing in our schools should be retrained and empowered to deliver. Unless we do so, we will be toying with the future of our children. Besides, we will never become a nation of readers and writers. We must note that the products of our schools and colleges are replicas of their teachers. As a matter of fact:

When we get to the bottom line, teachers make or break a program. If they believe in what they are asked to do, if they are supported rather than dictated to by the school leadership, and if they are sufficiently trained, the program will succeed. If these ifs are not met, interest in the program will stop outside the classroom door (Welsh, 1989:65).

In order to raise the type of teachers who can turn around our school system, we need to take two vital steps. First, as we have already implied, we must put in place a sound literacy teacher education package in our Colleges of Education, Faculties of Education, Institutes of Education and other agencies that are charged with the training of teachers. Only the personnel who have passed through such a teacher education package or program should be employed to teach or oversee the literacy curriculum in our schools and colleges. Second, we must as a matter of utmost urgency undertake the retraining of all personnel involved in the teaching of literacy in our schools and colleges. In doing so we need to remind ourselves that

Learning takes place from the inside out, not from the outside in. Neither teachers nor those they teach change simply by receiving information, by being told about theory, research or new approaches. Unfortunately, we often equate knowledge with information. Language and literacy instruction won't improve in our schools if we continue to hold onto the ideas that all that teachers' need is more information and everything will get better. Information is necessary, but it is not a sufficient condition for change. (Jaggar, 1989:78)

We need to ensure that such retraining programs for our literacy teachers are not just workshops on academic paper presentation, where participants are merely told about language and literacy instruction but are not provided with the forum to use language, and practise what they are told. Finally, we need to be patient with teachers as they strive to internalise the contents of the retraining programs, workshops or in-service training they have been exposed to. We need to give them time to make necessary adjustments in view of what they have learned. It will pay us to bear in mind that

Change takes time and energy. It does not take place overnight, or as a result of a one-day workshop at the beginning of the school year--a limited approach to staff development. Professional growth and development should be an on-going process that is an integral part of the life of a school. (Jaggar, 1989:79)

The current approach in use all over the country where we bring teachers to workshops in hotels outside their schools to talk down on them in the capacity of workshop training is an exercise in futility. We need a collaborative and school cluster paradigm in the training of teachers. The result of the five-year Universal Basic Education Commission, World Bank action research project on school based and school cluster retraining of teachers is there for all to see and critique. The amazing result is worth examining and replicating. Unless we jettison our current workshop cascading paradigms of retraining our teachers, we can never become a nation of readers and writers.

Making Books Available

In spite of the advances in the use of the electronic medium, the textbook remains one of the most valuable companion a learner must have. Except for the teacher, the textbook remains the most valuable companion a learner, a teacher and a community can have in the furtherance of knowledge. Textbooks are easier to produce and own than the electronic medium. Textbooks are more portable as instruments of learning than the electronic medium. Given the poor supply of electricity in our country, Nigeria, and given the great challenges facing the individual in improving the supply of electricity, the textbook will remain the most viable, readily available, most portable and cheapest resource for storing knowledge, attitudes and skills for individual and group learning. The importance of books in the educational system as it affects countries like Nigeria, is aptly captured by Basista et al (1986),

Every year, millions of adults learn how to read. Every year, hundreds of thousands forget how to read because there are few post literacy materials and few services to help new readers use their skills (Basista et al, 1986:6),

Peterson (1992),

Books must be plentiful and accessible. Part of becoming literate is learning to live in a place where books are ready -to-hand and an accepted part of life and learning. It is not asking too much to expect that classrooms house the books and teachers to demonstrate values that make turning to a book for information and enjoyment as the most natural thing to do in the world (Peterson 1992:86).

and Biniakunu (1991),

Books provide the most effective means of disseminating and popularizing scientific and technological knowledge in western countries (Daign 1997: Jacob 1988: Sharafundin 1986) where non-fiction publication outnumbers fiction. If in these countries, science and technology have become common properties, it is primarily because books are found everywhere. That is not the case in Africa, the continent which as far as book production and consumption is concerned presents the grimiest picture (Biniakunu: 1980, Cited in Biniakunu 1991:105).

Besides, we agree that:

If books haven't helped to enhance Africa's knowledge and skills to grassroots level, it is because of the lack of books at that level. And we, the so called African elites are to be blamed for Africa's hunger for books. This lack of books in turn is responsible for the lack of motivation in so many African literacy programs. Nsi Yankatu Ngongo eto constitutes however one proof that Africans at all level can read and enjoy books if the latter are available: that they can engage in literacy programs if there are things to read (Biniakunu 1991:105).

It is therefore our candid position that we must find ways and means of developing a vibrant, dynamic and robust book industry in which books would be easily accessible to the generality of our people. We can not promote a viable and result-oriented reading culture if books are not available for our people to read. The dearth of books in our country is a crime against our people committed by those of us who have benefited immensely from formal education in this country. This crime must be redressed. The slogan today should be: "To make every Nigerian accessible to books is a task that must be done and done now."

Reading for Critical and Creative Thinking

The role of reading in the use of literacy implies that Reading is central in meaning making, meaning construction, reconstruction and negotiations. Reading therefore is the pivot of literacy. Our position regarding the centrality of reading in literacy is also shared by Venezky who contends that:

Reading is clearly primary to any definition of literacy. Writing as a means of recording communication presupposes reading otherwise it is mere copying. Similarly, numeric and document knowledge are supplementary to reading and have no role in the literacy equation without it. The skilled reader, ignorant of numeric and document skill will still obtain meaning from print. On the other hand, the non reader who is skilled in arithmetic and in some document styles will stumble in an environment based on print (Venezky, 1990, p.9)

The effective and efficient teaching of reading so that it can enhance the effective use of language, creativity, problem solving and the art of inquiry is a task that must be addressed by those who design and implement our adult literacy curriculum. One sad effect of our disregard for Reading is that we are not critical and creative thinkers. We rarely take time to examine our challenges. We hardly critique what we are told, usually swallowing it hook line and sinker. We are often not willing to take risks in our daily activities. If we see Reading as essential for livelong learning, we would want to read any written text that comes our way. With extensive and intensive experiences we would become critical and creative thinkers. As critical and creative thinkers we would be quite inquisitive about the world around us. We would want to explore it. Besides, we would like to connect our background experiences with the current experiences before us. Thus the benefits of Reading would begin to impact on us positively and extensively.

Critical and creative thinking would enable us to enjoy what we read. This is because we would love to read extensively especially imaginative texts. Imaginative Reading would make us relate to the characters and events in the texts we read. Besides, it would enthuse us to share in the emotions, which imaginative Reading brings. As Hardt has succinctly put it, imaginative Reading

Brings high joy to children in much the same way as sculpture, painting or music does. Like music, it brings the stimulation of sound and rhythm. Like painting, it brings the illumination of imagery and design. Like sculpture, it brings the awareness of space and texture. When it is well conveyed ... like art leaves a lasting impression (Hardt, 1983:108).

Critical and creative thinking enables the individual not only to distil meaning from written texts but also to construct, reconstruct, negotiate, and make meaning from such texts. Critical and creative thinking instills in the individual love for literature. Literature itself "can contribute to community values' and 'to be involved intensely in a narrative is to take away something, to be influenced' (Peterson, 1992:88). We therefore expect critical and creative thinking to empower the individual to collaborate and play a positive role in any community of learners in which the individual is involved. One benefit that it should impart to the individual is the facilitation of aesthetic experience. Aesthetic experience can empower an individual in a number of ways. For instance, it can enable a reader 'to engage sympathetically with the character and allow the invented world of story to take over their imaginative and emotional life' (Peterson, 1992:85). Besides, it can enable readers 'to succumb to the narrative, to experience the character's hopes, fears, and fate as their own' (Peterson, 1992:95).

We also contend that critical and creative thinking generates in the individual the love for extensive Reading. Such love can propel the individual to continually search for information, to connect previous experiences with current ones and to promote the art of content area inquiry. When students are engaged in content area inquiry they learn that knowledge is dynamic.

They learn that meaning is created and that what they know and create is important. Students engaged in this type of inquiry learn to ask questions and examine information; nothing is accepted as truth. Furthermore, they learn that there are multiple ways of knowing and expressing. Most important perhaps, they know that they play an active role in creating their world. (Smith, 1992:76).

Our well over four decades of teaching critical and creative thinking at various strata of our school system has shown that critical and creative thinking magnetizes the individual to books. When an individual becomes a critical and creative thinker, the fellow would always love to be innovative. The individual would be eager to search for information from diverse sources. Such a fellow would love to read diverse kinds of books--fiction, fact, newsreel and content area textbooks (Onukaogu, 1999 and Onukaogu and Ohia 2003). When books become the vade mecum of an individual, the benefits that the individual would get from them would be immeasurable.

Manning as cited in Onukaogu (1999) captures the value of books to the individual who makes them its vade mecum :

From the written word comes gentleness, from the line ... patience; from the phrase ... Joy; from the poem ... compassion; from the epic ... courage; from the saga ... perseverance; from the soliloquy ... forgiveness; from the monologue ... insight; from the essay...justice; from the dialogue ... love; from the forward ... hope; from the prose ... tolerance; from the narrative ... understanding; from the paragraph ... peace; and from the literary odyssey ... wisdom (Manning, 1995:658).

Dechant summarizes the advantage one would get when Reading empowers one to be a critical and creative thinker. He contends that

As our culture becomes more complex, reading plays an increasingly greater role in satisfying personal needs and in promoting social awareness and growth. Through reading we acquire many of our tastes, and our standards of behavior and morality; we may broaden our interests, our taste and our understanding of others. As Aldous Huxley points out, "Every man who knows how to read has it in his power to magnify himself, to multiply the ways in which he exists to make his life full, significant and interesting" (Dechant, 1977:1)

It is therefore in our interest if we can become a nation of readers so that we can benefit from the advantages, which Reading provides.

Promoting advocacy on the Policy of Using the Mother Tongue

There is no doubt that the NPE has a sound policy on the use of the mother tongue as a medium of instruction. The only lapse in Nigeria is that the policy is not being implemented. We therefore need to mount some advocacy initiatives that will promote interest and love by all Nigerians regarding the use of the mother tongue as a medium of instruction. The challenge is one of policy implementation and not formulation. We therefore need to mount extensive seminars, roundtables, workshops and institutes in our Colleges of Education, Universities and Polytechnics in order to make the Nigerian academia appreciate the importance of the mother tongue medium of instruction. We also need to mount further advocacy initiatives in the civil service, churches, mosques, community centers, various age groups, guilds and trade unions in our communities. Once we take time to explain to our people that they should use the mother tongue in communication with their children at home and in the community and in linking the school with their home, then they will begin to see the rationale why we say that their mother tongue is as good as English for communication and as a medium of instruction.

If our efforts to promote the use of the mother tongue is to work, then we must begin to produce extensive readers, course books, news papers etc. in the mother tongue. Unless we have an avalanche of diverse, robust, dynamic and vibrant reading and instructional materials in the mother tongue, it will be impossible for us to convince the generality of Nigerians that we are serious in our bid to promote mother tongue medium. There is a need for us as a matter of utmost urgency to start writing projects in the six geopolitical zones of the country where we can model how to produce materials for the mother tongue teaching and learning as well as train our primary and secondary school teachers regarding how to produce such materials. In addition, we need to set up community information centers, where the community members can share

information among themselves through the mother tongue. Adult literacy programmes should be in the mother tongue and not in English. Such programmes should make extensive use of the community information centers where members of the community can meet to share information orally and in writing via the mother tongue. Finally, government should activate its Inspectorate Education Unit to enforce the use of the mother tongue medium in our primary schools. That an individual speaks, reads and writes a language cannot qualify the individual to teach the language. If we are to make use of the mother tongue as a medium of instruction, then we must have a cadre of highly trained and highly motivated staff to teach it. Our Colleges of Education, Institute and Faculties of Education should develop a state of the art curriculum for the training of mother tongue teachers.


By way of conclusion, we would like to stress that two steps must be taken immediately in order to concretize the suggestions we have made regarding the promotion of biliteracy for sustainable development. These are enabling the learner to have intrinsic motivation to read and creating an institution for the promotion of research on all aspects of reading and writing in Nigeria using the media of English and the Nigerian mother tongue/s.

Promoting Intrinsic Motivation in Literacy

When the individual in a bilingual education is empowered through intrinsic motivation, the individual will definitely and evidently benefit maximally and optimally in literacy education and will be in a better position to share what s/he has acquired. In the first place, everything must be done to ensure that the individual in both our formal and informal school system is sufficiently motivated to read or write. Motivation to read and write can either be intrinsic or extrinsic. Available research shows that extrinsic motivation to read and write is not as powerful as intrinsic motivation (Kohn 1993). Current research shows that in our school system, we emphasize more on the extrinsic motivation and because of this, majority of our students do not want to read and write. After extensive study on how to get learners to read and write independent of their teachers, Edmund and Bauserman (2006) have recommended self selection, attention to characteristics of books, personal interest, access to books and active involvement of others as essential ingredients of facilitating intrinsic motivation and for getting learners to read and write without inhibition. In our Nigerian approach to literacy instruction, we want to stay with the learner all the time. We select what the learner should tackle, insist on how it is to be done and do not give the learner room to take any initiative, solve problems and take risks. We are often so scared of the possibility of the learner committing errors that we never allow the learner to be independent and to use its errors as scaffolds for promoting learning. Our behavioral model of language instruction cripples the development of intrinsic motivation without which the learner can not develop as a critical, creative and independent learner. In order to promote intrinsic motivation, we should allow the learner to say and select what it wants to study. We must in addition respect and facilitate the personal interest of the learner. If we are to provide for the characteristics of books the learner wants, we must ensure that we have profuse, vibrant, diverse and robust supplies of books from which the learner can choose. Intrinsic motivation can be further achieved if the home, the community and the school get involved in encouraging the learner regarding the four steps we have mentioned above. That is why we recommend that:

... teachers introduce family members to practices that will increase their children's reading motivation. These practices include reading aloud to their children, sharing with their children the books they are reading and buying or giving their children books. Best practices in reading can be modeled by teachers during open houses, parent/teachers organization meetings, or parent workshops. (Edmonds and Baurseman 2006 p 423)

In order to further enable beginning learners to have the intrinsic motivation to excel in phonics learning, we also recommend the use of bilingual alphabets, sound alphabets, environmental alphabets, reverse alphabets and illustrated song books. (See Manuela 2003 for a detailed illustration of how to use the above methodology in teaching phonics in the bilingual classroom). When the individual in the bilingual education is empowered through intrinsic motivation, the individual will definitely and evidently benefit maximally and optimally in literacy education and will be in a better position to share what s/he has acquired.

Center for Reading and Writing

It is unfortunate that in spite of the giant strides we have made in education in Nigeria, we do not have a ready-to-hand data bank of what the Nigerian reads and writes, why s/he reads and writes, when s/he reads and writes, how s/he reads and writes, where s/he reads and writes and various dimensions of literacy in Nigeria. While our scholars can, at beck and call, provide the state of the art research regarding literacy and literacy education in Europe, the UK and US, our scholars would usually find it an up-hill task to provide similar information in Nigeria. The reason for this is not far-fetched. The absence, in Nigeria, until recently, of a Centre devoted solely to research in reading and writing has crippled studies in literacy and literacy education as they affect Nigeria. That is why we would like to commend the recently established Centre for Reading and Writing set up by the Joseph Ayo Babalola University (JABU), Ikeji Arakeji. This Centre if adequately funded and fully supported is bound to make a positive and significant difference in the literacy landscape and horizon of Nigeria. Like the JABU Reading and Writing Center, any Center set aside for the promotion of reading and writing should minimally have the four goals stated below:

Research: The research focus should include critical literacy, family literacy, childhood literacy, adolescent literacy and adult literacy. Given the peculiar Nigerian literacy landscape, the center should undertake studies in multiple literacy, mother tongue literacy, and bi-literacy. It should also research into the effectiveness of teacher training and language policies of Nigerian and African governments.

Communication Skills Enhancement/Classroom Practices: The Center should promote effective and efficient classroom practices regarding communications skills teaching and learning in all levels of the Nigerian and African school system. The areas that will definitely need immediate attention and focus include: Reading, Writing, Cross-Curricular Integration, Technology and Literacy Integration.

Resource Center: The Center should serve as a database and a clearinghouse regarding studies and publications on literacy emanating from Nigeria and Africa. It will thus serve as a resource center that will coordinate networking opportunities and resources for government, literacy experts and others in Nigeria and Africa. The many reading related research, projects and literacy materials produced by reading experts writing about or working in Nigeria and Africa should be harnessed and made available to the governments and peoples of Nigeria and Africa. A website to serve as a national and international gateway into the Center should be established. The Center should also distribute information through such serious outlets as books and journals and other means such as leaflets, newsletters and brochures.

Capacity Building: The Center should strive to build the capacity of personnel involved in the teaching of reading and writing. Nigeria and Africa needs to develop human and material resources in the field of reading and writing. The Literacy Center would help to build this capacity by training literacy personnel through encouraging academic and administrative exchanges between governments, institutions, community based associations and non governmental organizations having interests in literacy. The Center should promote conferences, workshops, seminars, round tables, pre-service and in-service training for literacy personnel.

It is our candid view that if the two steps of enabling the learner to be intrinsically motivated and if there is a centre for Reading and Writing to oversee the overall development of literacy in the country, literacy as an instrument for enhancing sustainable development in multilingual Nigeria would be attainable.


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