Ida Obolo

Ikọ (Dr) Uche E. Aaron Otumu me usen Usem Obolo me 23/02/2016

Echi ìre ikọ Dr Uche Aaron, ogwu nteme ile me Sil International me agan̄ ikakana usem, ogwu òkikpọ chieen̄ me lek ikwaan̄ Usem Obolo, otumube me usen eriebe ijọk mije egobo Usem Obolo, ke ìre Usem ama-iman agan̄ otu mun̄ me acha 2016. [ege me usem ebeke]. Fuk.

“QUALITY EDUCATION, LANGUAGE(S) OF INSTRUCTION, AND LEARNING OUTCOMES”

AN ADDRESS PRESENTED AT THE CELEBRATION OF THE UNESCO INTERNATIONAL MOTHER LANGUAGE DAY AT THE NATIONAL MUSEUM, OLD GRA, PORT HARCOURT, RIVERS STATE, ON FEBRUARY 23, 2016, BY DR. UCHE E. AARON, SIL INTERNATIONAL TRANSLATION CONSULTANT,

IN CHARGE OF OBOLO LANGUAGE AND BIBLE TRANSLATION ORGANIZATION (OLBTO)

The Special Guests of Honor:Your Excellency, Chief (Barr.) NyesomEzenwoWike CON,

Executive Governor of Rivers State

Your Excellency,Deacon Udom Gabriel Emmanuel, Executive Governor of Akwa Ibom State

Chairman of the occasion, HRH. N. L. A.Iraron JP, Ede-Obolo II,Òkaan̄ Ama of Egwede

Guests of Honor: Barr. Rufus Godwin, Head of Service Government of Rivers State

Hon. Mrs. Tonye Briggs Oniyide, Honorable Commissionerfor Culture and Tourism

Hon. Victor Ere, Chairman CTC, Andoni Local Government Area

Hon. Edwin Ubulom, Transition Chairman, Eastern Obolo LGA

Royal Fathers of the Day: HRH Uboon̄ (Dr.) Ujile D. Ngere, Òkaan̄ Ama of Ngo

HRH King (Dr.) I. U. Otuo IX (JP), Òkaan̄ Ama of Unyeada Kingdom

HRH King (Sir) Aaron Ikuru, Òkaan̄ Ama of Ikuru Town

Obolo Chiefs from Akwa Ibom and Abia States

Mother of the Day: Prof. (Mrs.) Charity Okujagu, Associate Dean, Faculty of Science,

University of Port Harcourt

Chief Host: Mr. Omolayo Ralph Fadamijo, Curator, National Commission for Museums

And Monuments, Port Harcourt

Special Guests: Comrade Anthony Emmanuel Ntedeng, President, West African Maritime Workers Union

Sir. Cyrus T. Nkangwung, Chairman, Ida Obolo

Prof. John H. Enemugwem, Dean, Dept. of Humanities, University of Port Harcourt

Master of Ceremony: Dr. Ayuwu Jones, University of Port Harcourt

Invited Schools

Lords Spiritual and Temporal

Other Royal Highnesses and Traditional Rulers here present

All Uniformed Organizations

Gentlemen of the Press

Ladies and Gentlemen

All Speakers of Obolo and Speakers of other Languages here present

All other protocols observed.

Dear ones, you are all welcome to this historically unique occasion. Ebi Obolo, usen ya îre! Obolo îbolo! (Obolo people, the day has come! Obolo is awakened!) We are extremely grateful to you, the National Commission for Museums and Monuments, Port Harcourt. You have made our dream to come true. Today, on the 2016 UNESCO Mother Language Day, Obolo language is not only being recognized at the federal level in Nigeria, it is also being registered at the universal level through the United Nations. It is Okumugwem (Yahweh), who has brought this to pass. Praise be to His name! The Board of Trustees of Obolo Language and Bible Translation Organization, the Executive Committee, and all Obolo people, congratulations to you all for this great and historic accomplishment!

Obolo language, one of the 535 languages in Nigeria, belongs in Lower Cross sub-branch of the Delta Cross branch of the Eastern Division of the South Central Niger Congo language family, along with Iko, Ibino, Oron, Eket, Annang, Ibibio, Efik, etc. In terms of ethnicity, the Iko, Ibino, Oron, and Obolo are of the same ethnic identity, and we have enjoyed our relationship, from our ancestry, as members of the expanded Obolo nation (Ido Obolo). The development work on Obolo language was initiated in 1977 under the auspices of the Rivers Readers Project, which was instituted by late Prof. Kay Williamson, and in 1978, the Obolo Language Committee was formed. In 1980, the Obolo Bible Translation Committee was formed, and both were fused into Obolo Language and Bible Translation Organization (OLBTO) in 1981, and was linked to the Nigeria Bible Translation Trust (NBTT) which has provided the technical and professional oversight to OLBTO since then till date. In 1992, the Obolo New Testament was dedicated, and on May 24, 2014, the whole Bible in Obolo language was dedicated, the 23rd of its kind in Nigeria, the 184th in Africa, and the 515th in the whole world. This brought to an end, the Bible Translation track of the work of OLBTO. Other accomplishments in this aspect of the work include the Jesus Film through the Great Commission Movement, and audio version of the New Testament through Faith Comes By Hearing. The latest and very significant baby of OLBTO is the creation of the Obolo Language website, with the name “Ida Obolo” and the address www.obololanguage.org. On this website, everything about OLBTO can be found, and from it the whole Bible in Obolo language can be downloaded, even onto android phones. The Literacy track of the work started before the translation track, and is still continuing after the dedication of the whole Bible.

In the UNESCO Report of 1953, it was stated, “It is axiomatic that the best medium for teaching a child is his mother tongue,… we recommend that the use of the mother tongue be extended to as late a stage in education as possible” (UNESCO 1953b:11,47). Among the most salient reasons generally given for the use of the mother tongue are the following: (1) Psychologically,it is generally agreed by educationists and psychologists that a child should first learn to read and write in the language spoken in his home and in which his first verbal communication with parents and siblings takes place. When this foundation has been laid, he can acquire a full command of his own language, and if necessary, of other languages. Without it, there is danger that he will never achieve a thorough command of any language. (2) The mother tongue plays an indispensable role in the formation of the child’s concepts of the world and his categories of thought. It forms a natural and easy means for further linguistic, intellectual, and emotional development. It is a medium used to integrate the work of the classroom with the experience of the children outside the school. (3) Educationally, the nature of learning to read, by itself, presents the most significant reason for using the mother tongue. Learning to read involves four major stages, viz. perceiving or recognizing words, grasping or comprehending meanings, reacting to the ideas acquired, and integrating what has been read. It is impossible to carry out such a program in a language that is not well known to the student. (4) The process of beginning to read consists of association of written symbols with oral symbols. If the language is well known already, then reading becomes a process of learning the symbols of the spoken language. But, if the language is foreign, then reading becomes a process of trying to associate strange symbols to non-existent and meaningless spoken forms. This is a source of great confusion, boredom, and ultimate drop out of school. Apart from reading, even in arithmetic (i.e. numeracy), it is very difficult to learn the concepts of numerical process when the student does not have a grasp of the meanings behind the words being used. According to AyọBanjọ (1995), the Ife Six-Year Primary Project experiment has shown that initial teaching in the mother tongue yields greater dividends later for the learner than initial teaching in a second language. Also, the Yoruba experiment showed that literacy in the mother tongue has a positive transfer effect on literacy in a second language. In this way, the use of the mother tongue is a bridge to the prestige/second language, it facilitates the mastery of the second language. Therefore, given the overwhelmingly poor educational standard being experienced in most parts of our country, Nigeria, bilingual education is the ideal for all the citizens.

However, some people have argued that, given the multilingual nature of our country (535 languages) and the unequal sizes of the various language groups, this ideal is not easy to realize without sacrificing national unity. Actually, it is a huge financial burden on the nation. But, on the contrary, it promotes national unity and patriotism. The development and encouragement of use of the mother tongue in schools is a pointer to the speakers that they are recognized by the government. Therefore they willingly identify with the government. Bilingual Education, which was started in the Soviet Union in 1918, was one of the most latent uniting factors that held together the many different ethnic groups (over eighty indigenous languages) of the former Soviet Union into one monolithic entity called Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR).In addition to the social bonding, the positive transfer effect on literacy in the prestige language, Russian, and the accompanying advantage of high quality education and good learning outcomes that result from bilingual education, catapultedUSSR into being one of the most technologically advanced nations of the world. Today, the same thing is holding true for China, India, etc. We also want the same for our country Nigeria, beginning from Obolo.

Ire môfuk ije, Keme keyi . Owu môkọt ibọkọ me ikpa olik. Gwu kom fo uwu

Môkọt igban̄ ida mè ibọkọ si.