Nigeria: A boost to Yoruba Language as Lagos State moves to enforce teaching in schools – Tola Adenle

For many years, this blogger has cried out about the disappearance of Yoruba language, though gradual, and championed a return to the study of Yoruba Language in schools. It is sad to note that the erosion is not only in our schools.

While a language, like the culture it anchors must be dynamic, it is disheartening that there is hardly any Yoruba, including illiterates and half-educated ones, who can string a Yoruba sentence that is not heavily-laced with English Language, together.

In open markets across Yorubaland, especially in big urban centers, Yoruba women traders can often be heard speaking to their young children, including toddlers as well as to other market women, customers … in admixtures of Yoruba and [often incorrect] English: Commot dere … O ti worst f’ọmọ na … o ti worst f’ọmọ na – things have become/gotten worst – ouch! – for X.  No one should blame a market woman – considering her level of education – for turning to the superlative form of ‘bad’ for a person who has purportedly gotten worse in his/her ways. The adjectival form needed is the comparative, worse.

Of course the children understand the first instruction to mean they should stop whatever they are doing because it’s unacceptable, OR come out of there or where you are! …

I’ve often found myself gently and diplomatically pointing out that if they speak Yoruba to their children, they should not entertain fears that the kids would not understand English. After all, I tell them, THEY were not spoken to in English and yet they “understand” the language. I also used myself as an example: Njẹ English  ‘mi kò dara? Emi kọ́ Yò’bá gidi ki n to kọ English! E jẹ ki awọn ọmọ nyin kọkọ sọ ede Yò’ba …

[What d’you think of my English Language skill or do you think it’s not good? (They always say it’s very good.) Being from Ondo/Ekiti States, I first had to learn “proper Yoruba before learning English. Please, speak Yoruba to your children …]

I joined Ẹgbẹ èdè Yoruba Àgbayé, a group promoted by late Papa Dr. Smith several years ago, and one of the group’s goals was to get schools in Yorubaland, including private schools which are the worst culprits at discouraging Yoruba language by pupils and students, to teach the language as part of requirements for school approval. As things often go in Yorubaland, Papa died some years ago, and so did the Ẹgbẹ.

This blogger and a high school principal who both live in Ibadan, Mrs. Omolara Kayode-Adedeji, were mandated to work on a curriculum for the language from primary to secondary school level.

If Lagos State can get the ball rolling, other Yoruba states would follow.

The Lagos State House of Assembly and the executive arm of government in that state should be commended for taking this needed step towards the preservation of Yoruba Language.

Below is the Vanguard report of the step.

Lagos to make Yoruba language compulsory in schools

By Monsuru Olowoopejo

Lagos State Government has concluded plans to make the teaching of Yoruba language compulsory in all its public schools. Governor Akinwunmi Ambode of Lagos State represented by his deputy Dr Idiat Oluranti Adebule, said that the subject will be taught in primary schools and junior secondary schools JSS3 across the state. He disclosed this yesterday at a stakeholders forum organised by the Lagos State House of Assembly at Academy hall, Agidingbi, Ikeja Lagos on the need to make Yoruba Language a compulsory teaching subject in all schools in the state.

According to him, the state government equally noted that the imposition of western culture and language on Nigerian children has done a lot of damage to the rich local cultural heritage of the Yoruba people. Ambode noted that it is important for children not only to learn the language of their environment, but also the culture and people’s general way of life.

The governor added that it is very important for every Yoruba child to be able to speak the language very fluently, enriched with adequate cultural norms of the people so as to guarantee a responsible life in the future. Ambode commended members of the state house of Assembly for their efforts at ensuring that Yoruba language is not relegated to the background, he noted that their effort would further help the state government in the implementation of its policy on the teaching of Yoruba language, adding that the house would help to make appropriate legislations that would back up government efforts at making Yoruba language a compulsory subject in all schools in the state.

The Governor who expressed reservations that government previous efforts at making the teaching of the language compulsory in all schools in the state are being frustrated by proprietors of private schools , expressed optimism that the State House of Assembly will do the needful to make the dream come to reality. He lauded all the traditional rulers and other notable Yoruba indigenes for gracing the occasion , adding that with their collective will and efforts, the goal of restoring the cultural values of the Yoruba people of Nigeria would be realized.

Earlier in his address, Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, Hon. Mudasiru Obasa called on parents and teachers to ensure that Yoruba language remains the medium of communication to children and pupils at home and in schools, adding that the efforts would help growing up children to learn both the language and its cultural values. He called on the state government to set a day aside in the schools calendar in which Yoruba language would be the spoken language in all the public schools, urging government to recruit more Yoruba language teachers to promote the teaching of the language in public schools.


The link to the Lagos State’s effort on Yoruba revival:

FRIDAY, JUNE 03, 2016. 2:42 p.m. [GMT]

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2 Comments on “Nigeria: A boost to Yoruba Language as Lagos State moves to enforce teaching in schools – Tola Adenle”

  1. idagbasoke Says:

    I commend Lagos State for this initiative which will enhance the learning of the history and culture of the Yorubas.
    I didn’t do a good job of teaching Yoruba to my children so I paid attention to this aspect as my contribution towards raising my niece. At age 2, I decided to converse with her only in Yoruba while almost everyone else around her spoke to her in English. She must have thought I did not understand English because she often would translate from English to Yoruba for my benefit whenever there were other people around us. Now at 5, she speaks fluently in Yoruba and her oral English is as impeccable as those of her mates in the high-cost private school she attends. Recently I noticed she kneels to greet in Yoruba and extends a hand ready for a handshake to the english speakers!



    • emotan77 Says:

      Dear Id.,

      Thanks for sharing this information.

      It’s a point worth noting that it’s easy for very young children to understand and even master more than a single language introduced to them. When I tell people this, they wonder if the kids would not be confused.

      I have a niece whose mastery of our dialect is excellent, her Yoruba “proper” is without the accent of someone like me who was already past 12 years of age before I encountered it, her English is excellent and she speaks French. These were all languages she learnt as a growing child.

      How? Her grandmother lived with the family and spoke only the dialect; her parents spoke Yoruba, and later she learnt French.

      In none of the languages does she exhibit traces of the other languages.

      Language is a bulwark of a people’s culture and when we lose it, we lose a vital part of our past.

      Sincere regards,



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