information and communication technologies and Igbo studies in tertiary institutions in Nigeria: issues and challenges.

Author:Asogwa, Brendan Eze


Igbo is one of the indigenous Nigeria languages that is spoken by over 16million (16,381,729) people in the South East Nigeria (Federal Republic of Nigeria, 2007). Igbo language is the supreme expression of the cultural heritage of the people of the South East Nigeria. Without the language, it would be difficult to talk about cultural revival, research, teaching and learning of Igbo in schools or in the world. It is the language of tradition and cultural communication in the markets, farms, village meetings and day-to-day transactions outside the offices, in the churches, public gathering, and in Igbo social and political arena. It is learned at home, schools, and colleges and in tertiary institutions, but today it is being feared of extinction due to the inversion of Western culture and the attitudes of Ndiigbo towards the language. In teaching and learning Igbo in schools today, both the teacher and the learner are no longer interested in the methodologies that would stress them much. What they need is fast, accuracy and transparency in getting information and information and communication technologies is the best bet for Igbo studies.

By Igbo studies, we mean the process of acquiring knowledge and proficiency in reading, writing, speaking, teaching, and researching in Igbo. However, the origin of the word, Igbo is not known (Oraka, 1982). Nevertheless, the word is used in Nigeria today and in this paper to refer to four areas of meanings:

[check] as a geographical or geopolitical territory in Nigeria--South East Nigeria;

[check] as a people inhabiting that geographical area--Ndiigbo/ Igbo people;

[check] as a language spoken by the people--Igbo language;

[check] and as a subject or course of study in schools and tertiary institutions--Department of Igbo or Igbo studies.

Igbo studies has developed through five remarkable stages and entered the sixth today. Those stages are:

* The period of collection of Igbo wordlist, 1766-1767. The collection of the wordlist started in Germany and Pennsylvania by G.C.A. Oldendorp, a German Missionary of the Monravian Brethren who took interest in organizing and compiling the languages of the African slaves he came in contact with. The wordlist, which was published in 1777 "contains thirteen (13) Igbo nouns and two sentences translated into Igbo" (Nwadike, 2008). This appeared to be the first documented records where Igbo and some other languages in Southern Nigeria like Efik, Kalabari, Ibibio, etc were made.

* The period of translation--At this stage Igbo language was inter-translated with foreign languages and literature. The Holy Bible and other prayer books in foreign languages and literature were translated into Igbo as a way of bringing the words of God near to the people. To facilitate the project, a translation bureau was set up at Umuahia between 1930 and 1940 by R. F. G. Adams where translations into Igbo of many materials were carried out.

* Grammar period--This age started with writing of Igbo grammar books for use in schools and colleges. The first Igbo primer to be written was by S. A. Crowther in 1875, followed by the ones written by F W Smart & W.E.L Carew; the 'Oku Ibo' by J. F. Schon, and the Elementary Grammar of Igbo by J. Spencer (revised by T.J. Dennis), and other grammar books that laid the foundation for modern Igbo grammar texts.

* The standard Igbo period, 1972-2000 AD--a period that was characterized by setting up of a committee in the South East known as the Society for the Promotion of Igbo Language and Culture, the inclusion and compulsory study of Igbo language as a subject of study in schools, colleges and for public examination in the South East Nigeria,

* The standardization and commencement of Igbo as a course of study and research in tertiary institutions in Nigeria. That was when tertiary institutions in Nigeria (Universities of Ibadan and Nsukka, and the then Alvan Ikoku (now Federal) College of Education, Owerri) included it in their curriculum as a course of study, research, and degree awarding certificate. This period also marked a serious effort in the writing, publishing, sale, and collection of Igbo books in schools and university libraries.

* The contemporary period, 2000- present is regarded in this study as the 5th stage. It is the emerging period which is characterized by the use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) to enhance the range and quality of speaking, writing, teaching, learning, and researching in Igbo. For example, the internet and the web now provide much wider access to variety of information making scholars to transcend to the era of open learning and virtual environments. Learning can be done at any time and place making us to move from the traditional method of teaching and learning Igbo language as a subject in schools to web based or e-learning.

* Electronic Igbo learning is an instructional content or learning experiences enabled by information technology which may include web-based Igbo learning, computer-based Igbo learning, virtual Igbo classrooms, and Igbo digital collaborations. It will facilitate; greater Igbo students' engagement and participation than the traditional one way teacher talk, and students listen method; the provision of greater opportunities for active learning; greater access to globalization of learning with the possibility of online lectures or joint classes with students in remote locations; enhancement of face-to- face sessions and improved communication with students and peer groups.


Igbo, Information and Communication Technologies, and Pedagogy in Nigeria

Afigbo (1972); Obi (1975); Emenanjo (1981); Oraka (1982); Ilechukwu (2006); Omeje, (2008); and Nwadike (2008) observed that Igbo studies started and passed through thorny roads and setbacks before it migrated into the present era. For example, one of the major problems was that the wordlist was from the beginning beset with the problem of inconsistent orthography and therefore made publishing a comprehensive and reliable Igbo dictionary very difficult. When Adams and Ida C. Ward initiated in an effort to resolve the problem of orthography and in 1929 introduced a new Igbo orthography which generated a lot of controversy.

Obi (1975) cited Kay Williamson to have noted that the delay in producing Igbo dictionary include dialectical variation in Igbo, lack of a powerful Igbo personality to support and implement a standard Igbo language learning, and the disputed orthography. He said that these accounted for the background of poor advancement of Igbo literature. Obi regretted that both Igbo language and their literature could have benefited much through translation, but was not followed up to the present period in Igbo studies. This is because very little attention was paid to the translation in the modern period in spite of the fact that translation is a means of enriching Igbo literature and inspiring more Igbo readers and consequently encouraging more serious approach to the study of Igbo in schools.

Another setbacks include Igbo dialectical variations, the negative impressions held by the colonial imperialist scholars that Igbo language was difficult to study because it "is a tone language that depends more on the distinction or differences of sound for the meaning of its words, and for the construction of its sentences" (Afigbo, 1972). As many Igbo scholars acquired foreign languages and their culture, there was lack of competent and trained people to handle the job of teaching the language in schools; there was lack of schools and serious disregard and respect for the language by the people. For example, many Igbo parents, unlike their counterparts in Hausa in the Northern or Yoruba in the Western Nigeria, preferred their children to have mastery of English language at the earliest possible opportunity, instead of Igbo language. This problem had its genesis in 1882 when the obnoxious British Education Ordinance made the use of English language as a medium of instruction in schools (Nwadike, 2008). Albert (2011) commenting in support of this ugly development said "many parents (in Nigeria) now introduce English language to their children earlier than they introduce their native languages because it is considered to be a source of pride to your (their) children to be able to speak in English language". He regretted that we got it wrong when we accepted western values without actually knowing why we did it and when we encountered western civilization, we were not able to defend our own culture thinking that we were experiencing something superior, and today we are overwhelmed by that superiority. Oni (2011) in his criticism on this western erosion of African culture said, "The painful reality is that some Nigerian languages are going into extinction ... shockingly, some Nigerian parents still believe that communicating with children in a foreign language is a mark of elitism"

The repeated failure of early works in Igbo language was attributed to lack of trained people in the language to handle the job of teaching the language, lack of dynamic leader in Igbo who would pioneer genuine interest in the progress of the language, and the uncooperative attitudes of the Igbo people themselves. Others include poor regards and remunerations for graduates of Igbo certificate holders which consequently relegate them into inferiority complexes, lowers the population of students...

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