By Samuel Oyadongha

Yenagoa—Bayelsa State Government, yesterday, said it was racing against time to save the Ijaw language from extinction, just as it presented cheques of N16.7 million to scholars studying the language under the pilot programme for the teaching and learning of the Ijaw language.

Citing United Nations Economic, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, UNESCO, report, which listed the Ijaw language among the 3,000 indigenous languages that would soon go into extinction, the state Commissioner for Ijaw National Affairs and Culture, Dr. Felix Tuodolo, said same informed the state government’s flag off of the project, Ijaw Bebe Tolumo.

He said: “We are fast losing our culture and heritage as it is common, these days, to be painfully confronted by the inability of our younger generation to effectively communicate in our mother tongue.

“Those who attempt to speak Ijaw in schools or in social gatherings are often denigrated or mocked by colleagues. It is also commonplace to consider our lingua franca to be English, or worse, pidgin English.

“Even the Nigerian state has been unfair to the Ijaw language as it has promoted other languages that were at par with the Ijaw language at the expense of the Ijaw language. Before and immediately after the civil war in Nigeria, four languages were used daily for translation of the national network news on Radio Nigeria. They were Hausa, Yoruba, Igbo and Ijaw.

“Today, there is national legislation making Hausa, Yoruba and Igbo as part of our national lingua franca and they are taught in schools and examined as major subjects by WAEC, NECO, and Nigerian universities as degree courses while Ijaw is not taught in public schools not even in Bayelsa State.”

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