Nigerians urged to develop literacy policy

Temitope Mustapha, Abuja

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The Nigerian government has been urged to develop literacy policy that would enhance the skills and competencies of Nigerians .

Government at all levels are also tasked to provide adequate funding for language and literacy interventions in the country.

A Professor of English Language, Prof Gabriel Egbe made the call in Abuja while delivering an inaugural lecture on the theme Of New Englishes and New Literacies.”

He also called for the adoption of what he called the Nigerian English for external examination arguing that the Nigerian English is not a substandard variety .

According to him, Nigerians do not need to be apologetic in the use of Nigerian English ,I need to stress that the Nigerian English is not marked by errors, the question for consideration is whether time has not come to test Nigerian students who take external examination council on standard Nigerian English while making provision for proficiency test for those who wish to study abroad who requires either British or American English.”

He noted that there was no minimum benchmark of literacy literacy skills and competencies expected of Nigerians from primary school to the university level.

The world is driven by 21st century literacies or what is simply called ‘ New Literacies’ whether for learning or for living.

”Measuring the literacy level of Nigeria as a country on the basis of the traditional literacy skills of reading, writing and numeracy in the 21st century, disguises the real issues involved in contemporary literacy discourse and practices.

“We cannot hope to produce globally competitive citizens when the quantity and quality of the literacy exposure of students are grossly deficient.

“The good news though is that the Federal Ministry of Education, the National Education and Research Development Council (NERDC) and the Northern Education Initiative and the Reading Association of Nigeria are working to develop the first national reading framework for Nigeria,” he said.

He added that the National Reading Framework should be developed for English language learners in the first instance and thereafter other languages can leverage on it.

Egbe also noted that the policy on literacy would be able to develop the skills and competencies that a modern Nigerian child should have from the primary school.

He added that investing in language and literacy research would help nation’s development saying that adequate attention should be given to the linguistic of development.

He further emphasised the need to begin to rethink the communication in English programme in higher institutions.

Tertiary institutions in Nigeria usually offer a two-semester course in communication in English as part of the mandatory general study courses.

Experience has shown that one dose is at best a starter dose. Time has come to set up language centres in higher institutions to provide both remedial and continuous learning opportunities for students throughout the duration of their studies and not just happen in the first year only.

”The content of the communication in English courses should be revamped to focus more on literacy in English with greater emphasis on academic English Literacy with clearly articulated skills and competencies which students need to acquire for academic achievement and lifelong learning,” he added.

The inaugural lecture was given at Veritas University Abuja.