By Enoch Sithole: The lack of journalism education in indigenous languages took centre stage at the Symposium on African Journalism Education hosted by the Centre for Media and Communication Research at the Pan-Atlantic University’s School of Media and Communication in Lagos, together with the African Journalism Educators’ Network and the Fojo Media Institute.

Presenting his paper under the title ‘Assessment of Indigenous Language for African Journalism Training: An Interdisciplinary Inquiry’, Dr Progress Umor Daniel of the Ignatius Ajuru University of Education, said learning and using indigenous languages had benefits such as helping preserve the languages and guaranteeing the right of individuals to speak in their languages. Intellectual and emotional development occur more effectively in a mother tongue and learning may be easier if the required mental development has already taken place through the use of indigenous languages.

Sustainable Journalism in Practice conference March 2023

He said Africa had over 3000 indigenous languages, with Nigeria having some 200, making it difficult to select one to be used as a national language. “I think we are in big problem and our governments need to come together, because our development is tied to the language we use for teaching and learning,” he said.

Dr Toyosi Owolabi from the Lagos State University presented his paper titled ‘Indigenous Language and Journalism’, saying the west African sub-continent of 16 countries and 300 million people had some 400 indigenous languages, yet English and French were the ones that were used in journalism education. This created a problem since journalists were required to publish in indigenous languages which they were not trained on. 

“Despite the inherent benefits in the use of indigenous languages as a medium of instruction in journalism training, there have been arguments against the use of indigenous language, partly because of a lack of government policy on indigenous languages.

“The media can also try to sensitize the government about the usage of indigenous languages, especially in the newsroom,” he said.