By Leonard Okachie
The Igbo Women Assembly (IWA), a non-political group, says it has initiated measures, including scholarship award for Igbo Language Study at the University of Lagos (UNILAG), to save the language from going into extinction.
The National President of the group, Mrs Nneka Chimezie, said this at a news briefing in Umuahia on Wednesday.
Chimezie said that there was plan by the Linguistics Department of UNILAG to close the study of Igbo Language, due to the lack of interested students.
She said that to stop the plan by the university, the group decided to put measures in place to offer scholarships to candidates that showed interest to study the Igbo Language in the institution.
She, therefore, urged candidates for the next Joint Admissions and Matriculation Examinations to take advantage of the scholarship scheme to apply to study the Igbo Language in the university.
She also appealed to parents and guardians to encourage their children and wards to show serious interest in the study of Igbo Language.
Chimezie said that the threat posed to the Igbo Language by the use of the English Language by Igbo natives called for concerted efforts from well-meaning individuals and groups of Igbo extraction to check further drift of the language toward extinction.
According to her, the younger generation of Igbo parents prefer to communicate with their children and wards with the English Language and not their mother tongue.
She said that presently, the language was at a dangerous and precarious stage and could slide into extinction any moment, if urgent steps were not taken to reverse the unwholesome trend.
The IWA president said: “Languages go through stages one to 11 in the process of going into extinction.
“And like cancer, which becomes incurable at stage four, a language definitely goes into extinction or dies, when it progresses to stage 11.
“Our research shows that the Igbo Language is at stage eight and once it gets to stage 11, it goes into extinction.
“It means the situation has become incurable.”
Chimezie said that IWA also established a primary school in Lagos with the mission to exclusively teach the Igbo Language, cultures and tradition.
She, however, regretted that the initiative was being threatened by the lack of teachers to teach the Igbo Language.
She said that as part of its advocacy initiatives, IWA planned to hold an elaborate celebration of this year’s United Nations Mother Tongue Day on Feb. 24 in Owerri.
She said they planned to use the event to appeal to Houses of Assembly in the South-East, churches, traditional rulers, Igbo groups and socio-cultural organisations to make laws and bylaws to enforce the mandatory speaking of the Igbo Language in schools and public events.
Chimezie listed the mission of IWA to include ensuring the sustainability and propagation of Igbo Language and cultural values across generations.
“Our mission is also to restore the glory of the Igbo woman through economic empowerment, promotion of Igbo Education and reviving the rich Igbo culture,” she said.
She also said that the assembly planned to establish Igbo training centres in the 36 states of the federation and in the Diaspora.
She said: “It is also our mission to revive and reform our native laws and customs through defining the roles of wives in the home.
“We shall protect the women’s right to own property and control their earnings, encouraging intra-marriage among Igbo people and reviving the custom of collective child training.”
Chimezie further said that the group intends to promote agriculture as a very important component of its mission statement through cooperatives, mechanised farming and provision of equipment to enhance productivity.
She said that already, the group had started organising workshops for women on the processing of raw ageicultural produce, including rice, cassava and palm oil, amongst others, into finished goods.
“We also want to join the men to develop industries in the South-East by creating an enabling environment, where our people can invest in a venture and it will thrive.
“We plan to encourage our businessmen and women, who are into importation, to go into production and site processing industries in the zone to take our teeming unemployed youths out of the streets.
“When we have industries in the South-East that create employment, our people will stop migrating to other parts of the world.
“Stopping the mass exodus from here will help to grow our youth population, which is essential for the economic development of the zone,” she said.
Chimezie, who was flanked at the briefing by officials of the group in Abia, said that IWA was formed by its national leader, Mrs Maria Okwo in 2008 and later merged with her own “Onye mara nwanneya” (know thy brother – IWA slogan), in 2020.
She said that the assembly had affiliated to Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide, led by Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu as President-General. (NAN)(www.nannews.ng)
Edited by Sam Oditah