The English Scholars Association of Nigeria (ESAN), formerly known as the Nigeria English Studies Association (NESA), held its 31st National Conference at the Federal University Lokoja between October 26 and 29, 2015. The conference, which held on the theme, “English Language, Literature and National Transformation”, attracted contributions and papers from over 200 participants across various Nigerian universities.
Apart from drawing eminent scholars and intellectuals like the Vice-Chancellor of the Federal University Lokoja, Prof. AbdulMumini Hassan Rafindadi, who chaired the opening ceremony; Prof. Wale Adegbite, President of ESAN; Dr (Mrs) Agnes O. Okai, Kogi State Commissioner of Education; Prof. Lucky Otagburuagu of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, who delivered the keynote address, and Prof. Sola Babatunde of the University of Ilorin, the conference also brought teachers of English across the nation together on how to improve their skills.
Those who trained the teachers of English Language and Literature were ably coordinated by Prof. Isaac Olaofe of Ahmadu Bello University Zaria just as Lead Presentations were made by Prof. Gbenga Fakuade of the University of Ilorin, Prof. Sale Abdul of the Federal University Kashere and Prof. Mabel Euviorhoma of the University of Abuja.
The conference appraised the state of education in Nigeria generally and the receding competence in the mastery of English as demonstrated by the poor performance of candidates in public examinations. Among other things, it recommended that:
- the Federal Government should create a systematic language policy and language planning initiative in order to propel the country to true development, especially in an Age of Information that is driven by language and its key function, communication;
- both the Government and the general public should develop positive attitudes to language and literature by promoting them, while appreciating the primacy of language as the key driver of national development;
- the Nigerian universities should implement the provision of making education courses run for five years with the fifth year devoted exclusively to the professional teaching components while the first four years are wholly devoted to the English language content;
- Nigerian governments at all levels should invest heavily in the development of English and literary studies through grants, scholarships and subventions in order to encourage and promote specialisation in language and literature;
- the Federal Government should implement and enforce its own policy of educating children in the mother tongue in the early years of primary education in order to guard against the double jeopardy of communicative incompetence in both Nigerian and English languages among young Nigerians;
- while promoting the English language, the Government should use the resources available in English to impact on the promotion of indigenous languages to carry along the vast majority of Nigerians in the developmental agenda;
- Government should make the study of literature compulsory in primary and secondary schools with a view to enhancing the expressive and creative capabilities of Nigerian students and future leaders; and
- the English language curriculum in Nigeria should be reviewed with innovative improvement in language teaching methodology, provision and use of standard and current resource materials, efficient and better English language teacher preparation techniques and integration of more cultural content in the curriculum.
Of the recommendations made by the Association, one of those that struck a chord in me was the one centring on teacher training. The quality of students may not improve beyond the quality of their teachers. This is why the proposal of students of Education spending five years in the university is a right step in the right direction. This will improve their grasp on their subject areas.
While the suggestion was discussed in Lokoja, a day after the conference, the same idea echoed in Abuja. In his keynote address (i.e. “A Review of the Education Sector in Nigeria and Recommendations for Sector-Wide Reforms”) at the Colloquium on Education in Nigeria organized by the Old Boys Association of the Government Secondary School, Owerri, on Friday, October 30, 2015, a former Executive Secretary of the National Universities Commission (NUC), Prof. Peter Okebukola, put the issue in clear perspectives.
According to him, “I propose that education as a degree programme be for five years; you concentrate on your core subject for four years and on the fifth year, you concentrate on education – teaching skills.” He then advised that “teachers must continue to upgrade themselves and run regular competence test; they should also have more time for teaching practice.”
The Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu, may wish to implement this important recommendation.