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‘Benue starts teaching of sciences in local languages’

By Peter Duru, Makurdi

Dr. Philip Tachin, the immediate past Executive Chairman of Benue State Universal Basic Education Board, SUBEB, says the teaching of science subjects in schools in native languages will soon start in schools in the state.

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Speaking to Sunday Vanguard in Makurdi, the state capital, Tachin said, “I discovered that our children are veering away from sciences into arts and others. And you know that science is a critical aspect of development in the 21st century. So I thought that something has to be done in order to arrest the situation because if we leave the trend, with time, we will lose significantly”.

He continued, “Having travelled worldwide and also studied in Asia, Middle East, I discovered that these people study in their own languages. They do not study in English. And many of them are medical doctors and they cannot speak English but they are efficient in their areas of specialization.

“So I thought that it was important to introduce something that would help our children understand sciences very well.

“So we decided to start teaching Tiv, Idoma and Igede languages in order to help our children learn how to read, communicate and speak in these languages.

“Secondly, we will translate or write sciences from English to native languages. So, I got a team of scientists that wrote sciences in English and translated into Tiv language. They have finished their work and I have given it to other experts to go through to ensure that everything is good. “The Idomas are also about finishing their own job; the Igedes are still working on their translation aspect. And so I think that if we get this right and we start implementing, we will train science teachers on how to teach these two texts, English and the indigenous side-by-side.

“It not as if they will throw away the English text, because if you want to help the children to understand what something means in English, you’ll have the indigenous text and for the person to understand the meaning of anything in English, the two texts have to be side-by-side.

“So we want to train teachers to know how to balance these two texts at a time and it will help our children to do well.

“I shared this in UBEC and they found it fascinating, they even told other State Universal Education Boards to emulate what Benue has started.

“So, it is important for us, because I think that when we start implementing this, Benue will build a very strong foundation for our children in sciences and, as they grow up in secondary schools all the way to the university level, they will understand this concept very well.

“Let me give you an example, in my secondary school days, I struggled to understand what spirogyra was. But it was something I knew because it was very common in our communities. It is what we call ‘congh’ in Tiv language but I found it strange and I did not know what it was in English language.

“Science is what we have around us, it is built around our own environment, these are things that the western scientists have studied and came up with various names and all that, but we did not know those names and so, sometimes, when they introduced those names to us in English, we struggled to memorize and found them strange.

“But if we start with our children at the basic level here and they understand this as they grow up, it won’t be a big challenge when they get to higher institutions”.

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