Taofeeq Adebayo, a PhD student in linguistics, is leading a pilot project that will see JSS 3 students in seven selected secondary schools in the South West being taught Science in Yoruba. For the purpose of the experiment, Taofeeq has translated a popular Science textbook, in collaboration with graduate students at the University of Ibadan. The project will see Adebayo teach science in Yoruba across seven schools with the textbook translated in collaboration with graduate students at the University of Ibadan, Nigeria’s oldest university.
Taofeeq, a Mellon fellow at New Orleans’ Tulane University, said:
“The idea is to get feedback from them regarding how our translation can be improved to meet their classroom needs and how we can design the translation so that it is accessible not only to the students but also to the teachers, as well as parents who read in Yoruba.”
In rural areas across Nigeria, teaching often happens in local languages but those lessons are still based on English textbooks and only happen out of necessity as a consequence of low English language proficiency.
There’s a long-running argument that local languages should be thought of as a standard medium of instruction for children at a younger age—and, some argue, through to university level. Providing education in a child’s mother-tongue, academics have claimed, will make subjects like science more accessible and easier to understand at an earlier age, especially for children that have to formally learn English at school.
The project proposal from Taofeeq Adebayo, cites a 2010 UNESCO policy brief that argues Africans should work to “plan late-exit or additive mother-tongue-based multilingual education, develop it boldly and implement it without delay”. It’s a strategy that’s also been tried out in southeast Asia where countries including Thailand, Phillipines, and Cambodia have adopted education policies that favor offering early education in the mother tongue.