Nigeria junior schools to teach in local languages, not English

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School children walk in the street in the Obalande area of Lagos, Nigeria

The new policy is to promote the use of Nigeria’s 625 local languages, but implementation remains uncertain.

The Nigerian government has approved a new National Language Policy that will mandate the use of local languages as the medium of instruction for primary school pupils and remove English. The policy was announced by Nigeria’s Minister of Education Adamu Adamu on Wednesday 30 November, 2022, after it was approved by the Federal Executive Council (FEC) in a meeting presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari, local media reported.

English is Nigeria’s official language. It is also the language of instruction at all levels of education. But the minister was quoted as saying: “the government has agreed now that, henceforth, instruction in primary schools, the first six years of learning will be in the mother tongue.”   

The objective of the new policy, according to the government, was “to promote, and enhance the cultivation and use of all Nigerian languages,” Adamu confirmed.

There are about 625 local languages in Nigeria, he said, and the policy would be applied nationally. ”Since the first six years of school should be in the mother tongue, wherever the pupil is, the language of the host community is what will be used,” he explained.

Adamu said that after the exclusive use of local languages for the first six years of school, the mother tongue would then be combined with English at the junior secondary level. While the new policy has officially taken effect, it is more in principle, the minister added, as full implementation will only happen once more preparatory work has been done.

“Theoretically, this policy starts from today, but the use of mother tongue is exclusive, but we need time to develop the material, get the teachers and so on,” he said on Wednesday.


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