Use of mother tongue in early childhood education

Not too long ago the Federal Government (FG) approved the use of mother tongue in the teaching of pupils of all primary schools across the country. The approval was given at a Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting. New Telegraph commends the FG for the approval of the use of mother tongue, as the language of instruction in the first six years of a child’s education.

The policy should unleash multiple benefits on each individual learner and the country. At the personal level, one of the advantages is that it would make the child think and reason in his/her mother tongue. This would help him/her to learn more effectively and efficiently with the learner likely to retain what he/she has been taught for use in the near and distant future.

But we find it disturbing that an administration would be implementing such a laudable policy, in its twilight. Why did she not commence the implementation of the use of mother tongue for instruction in primary schools, when it came into power in 2015? The belated introduction of the policy is likely to result in its haphazard implementation and compromised success.

The failure of the FG to train enough teachers is yet another obstacle confronting the takeoff and success of the policy. Well-trained teachers are experts that would help give meaning to the FG’s mother tongue policy But in a circumstance, whereby there appears to be an inadequate number of sufficiently-trained teachers for the task ahead, the execution of the policy could be likened to the anticipation of a rich harvest by a farmer, who is not keen in working on his /her farm, simply because of weather fluctuations.

The Minister of Education had even reportedly acknowledged that the country was yet to train an adequate number of teachers for the some take off of the policy. The policy may become dead on arrival, as a vital foundation block, which is the presence of thoroughly trained teachers, appears lacking. Another major factor, likely to affect the successful implementation of the policy is the limited number of instructional materials. Mallam Adamu had also acknowledged the existence of the referred defect.

We enjoin the FG to invest in the training of quality teachers for the implementation of the mother tongue policy. Indigenous universities and colleges of education should be approached to train teachers towards having a full grasp of indigenous languages. On no account, should the training of mother tongue teachers be done in foreign universities, as that would defeat the purpose that the policy is intended to achieve. The FG should equally invest in the production of instructional materials to help the teaching of subjects in local languages.

Similarly, the research and the writing of instructional materials should equally be handed over to Nigerian scholars specialising in different disciplines. Introduction of one or more incentives would help propel success in the implementation of mother tongue policy.


The teachers to be trained in the use of local languages for instruction in primary schools should be made to enjoy tuition- free training, as was the case on some occasions in the educational history of Nigeria. Mention must be made of 1976, when the then Federal Military Government (FMG) inaugurated the Universal Primary Education (UBE) Scheme. The scheme was aimed at producing Grade Two teachers to teach in the primary schools, where they were needed. It is wrong for the FG to be spearheading the mother tongue policy almost to the exclusion of communities and local government councils/ areas.

The policy may run into hitches, if it ends up as an Abuja-moderated exercise, as is being made to look. Grassroots legitimacy is a sine qua non for the mother tongue policy. New Telegraph therefore urges the FG to review the policy execution with the communities and local government councils/ areas as pivots. This is because local languages are tools of expression at the grassroots.

This is a further acknowledgement that the sustainable development of Nigeria lies in the evolution of a functional and vibrant local government system. This has unfortunately been progressively being sabotaged by some politicians including the state governors and some members of FEC. We will not hesitate to recommend that one or more incentives should be designed and targeted at the learners and the general public.

Fluency in one’s mother tongue should be one of the prerequisites for eligibility to stand for an election for an elective position in Nigeria. Possession of a credit in one’s mother tongue should also be made a requirement for admission into a higher institution of learning.

Each undergraduate student should also be required to undertake the study of his/her mother tongue as part of the mandatory General Studies (GS) Programme as a requirement for graduation. While we give our full support to the implementation of the mother tongue policy, the FG should ensure that pupils who are studying outside their ancestral settings are not marginalised in a manner that their own mother tongues/local languages are omitted.

It will be in the interest of the individual pupils and the nation for English not to be completely relegated to the background ground. Since English is the most widelyspoken language in the world, it makes sense for the pupils to be taught their mother tongues and English simultaneously




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