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The Enugu intellectual war for English Language

By  OKOFU UBAKA

A participant’s diary of a 5day seminar on ‘Capacity Building for English Language’ organised at F.G.C Enugu for 78 teachers of English Language from selected Unity and State schools in South West, South East and South South zones.

Apart from the fact that it was published on the centre spread of one of the national dailies of October, 24th 2012, nothing about the seminar, from the onset,  sounded serious. Before now, there have been seminars to light up the education sector. But, recommendations and findings from  such seminars had ended up gathering dust, or finding  their way into trash cans.

With this apathy, I set out for F.G.C, Enugu, venue of the  “Capacity Building for English Language” seminar, organised for teachers of English Language. Participants  were drawn from  selected Unity and State schools from the South East, South West and South South geo-political zones of the country. The five days seminar  which  attracted  no fewer than 78  participants was the brain child of the National Teachers’ Institute (NTI), in collaboration with SETP B Project Office, Federal Ministry of Education, Abuja.

Peeved by the early morning crowd at the bus terminus, I ruminated over why so many persons were traveling to Enugu that chilled Sunday, December 9th morning.

Since I am from the Niger Delta, I didn’t find the Enugu weather particularly friendly and so I braced up to face its unfriendliness for the next six days of my stay. I was perched against a dusty and a skin-biting weather. I was afraid  of falling  sick, but the seminar was so engaging that each day was rewarding and insightful.

Soon, I was to find out that as the seminar  petered on, each successive day, participants, were better informed than the previous. Speaking frankly, one person was instrumental to the fillip,if not the boost that was given to the Enugu seminar. I have met professors, but in Enugu, I met one with a difference in Prof. Joy Eyisi.

There was an extraordinariness  about her. She brandishes an un usual aural, and glides with the most superlative carriage I have ever seen in an academic. Prof. Eyisi didn’t only spice up the Enugu seminar, but left me after an out-of- theatre surgery with a re-invented perception of the teaching profession. The endearing counter  with Prof. Joy Eyisi has since changed my attitude to life, generally. If I must confess, I am better than I was before the Enugu  seminar.

I boldly subscribed to why a seminar on capacity building for English Language, mathematics and the science subjects were imperative. The Federal Government, perhaps, was not taking lightly the mass failure of students in school certificate English Language that it was provoked into getting the organisers of the seminar to brain storm on how the unfortunate abysmal performance of students in these subjects at school certificate examinations could be reduced to the barest minimum, and put a stop to the blame game.

Arguably, these problem subjects coincidently doubled as the most relevant for the push for national development. Seminar resource persons were wonderful. Dr. Nkiru Esther Ogwu, an Associate Professor with the department of Language and Linguistics, University of Benin, Benin-city was distinctive in her approaches to impacting knowledge.

Prof. Sam Ayodele from Babalola University, would be remembered for his soft but reticent touches and minute details. Dr. Gideon Omachonu did not leave  participants in doubt that he was worth his onion. Dr. Omachonu from Nasarawa state university, Simon Ogbonna and Prof. Joy Eyisi, showed that they were masters of their specialties.

Essentially, the seminar was built around the re-training paradigm. As a reference point, the five days workshop was billed to focus on the analysis of identified difficult areas of school certificate English as revealed by a previous comprehensive assessment and to marshal out effective learner – friendly techniques to tackling the challenges headlong.

For each of the four identified problem areas in Senior School Certificate English, a core module component was designed and a resource person attached to it. The four components and coincidentally, the problem areas in School Certificate English were Oral, Lexis, Summary and writing.

The objects of the designed modules were to avail teachers the opportunity to develop their content areas, update teachers with a range of new learner – friendly approaches, methods and techniques as well as to assist and support in the implementation of the new approach to teaching the language in a second language situation.

The seminar, however confirmed that all was  not well with the Nigerian education  system. The reason for the down ward slop both at the urban and rural areas varied from urban related distractions to the decaying and deplorable state of infrastructures  particularly in the riverine areas.

It was agreed by all that the education situation in the urban, especially, unity , and other elite Schools were better when compared to the ones in the rural areas where the system is bedeviled by lack of teachers and teaching aids.

I found solidarity in my Bayelsa brother, Igwe Sunday, who coincidentally was my group mate, and neighbour in Kambili. Before awed and incredulous looks of some teachers of Unity schools, we took turns to speak on how pathetic our schools were at the creeks of the Niger Delta.

I was at the seminar in the capacity of a senior teacher of English language, Alema College, Abeugborodo in Warri North LGA. Igwe Sunday was representing another public school in Ogbia local government area of Bayelsa state. Both Warri North and Ogbia LGAs are famous and in contemporary map for a reason. Those who are conversant with the origins of President Goodluck Jonathan and Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, the governor of Delta state should know what am talking about.

In all, we had a well organised programme, and as a parting gift, Prof. Eyisi took us through the maze of excellence in the use of the English Language, as she dropped a quote from her mentor, “errors are errors on whose lips or from whose pen they appear notwithstanding”.

As I embarked on the journey back South, I couldn’t bring myself to understand why Dr. Nzebunachi Oji was yet to be decorated a Professor, in spite of his enormous contributions to the study of English Language, within and outside the academic community of Nsukka. Dr. Nzebunachi Oji is Prof. Eyisi’s mentor. An irony I am yet to understand.


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