Mother language literacy is a phenomenon that has gone really down in Africa especially in the last two decades. Technology and rapid developments in Western Education and other things has led to a mass decline in now adults who can speak their mother tongue. If you are African you know how important tradition and culture is. And Language is only one aspect of our culture that is fading quickly.
Delmwa Gogwim noticed this phenomenon and decided to do something about it in her way. She worked on a big project tagged “Story Time for Kids”.
You can read the full interview below.
Hello Delmwa. Please tell us a bit about yourself
My Name is Delmwa Blessing Gogwim, I am from Plateau state. I was born to the family of Late Amos & Mrs Patricia Gogwim – the last of 5 kids. I am a graduate of French from the University of Jos and presently an on-air personality with KT FM Jos, a performing artist, scriptwriter and also a part-time teacher.
What was the root of the idea that became Story Time for Kids?
One of the first jobs I did in my life was teaching kids. Through that time I realised that most kids that have tribal names don’t know the meaning of their names. And that got me concerned. After having this encounter with kids at different places at different times I thought what can I do to reduce such cases and to encourage kids to learn and love their dialect because I the way we are losing our identities and culture to other people’s languages and cultures. So when I got this idea, I thought storytelling will be a good way to get children’s attention so I wrote the stories, sat down with a team of people that have always believed in me long before now. I narrated the stories to them and they helped me pick the stories we made use of in the DVD
How was the production? Was it easy or hard?
Hmmm, hard – very hard. Getting people who can speak the languages to even agree to sit in front of the cameras was a challenge – people disappointed me but we just had to go to our plan B, C and sometimes D
What was the mode of recording the stories?
The stories were narrated by Uncles and Aunties but no kids. It does not have kids in it. We added cartoons instead.
What did the experiment if I can call it that reveal to you about the level of mother language literacy amongst children in Plateau state and Nigeria as a whole?
Like I said at the beginning, a lot of children don’t know a single thing about their tribes. It didn’t start with the children, it started with the parents. And you know, when you don’t continually speak a language, you gradually lose it.
Most people born in the late ’90s upwards had little or no knowledge of their mother tongue – what do you think is the reason for that?
When the people that are “supposedly” to teach the children (Parents) don’t teach them, where will the child learn it from? Both Parents now work so hard which is a good thing but it has taken parents far from their children. Parents pay schools to teach Foreign languages to their children in schools but have forgotten that this child needs to know where he/she comes from, need to know what values their tribes hold in high esteem, they need to value of family members, they need to know what their tribal names mean and if need be the reason they were given that name.
In your opinion what is the importance of mother tongue literacy?
Everyone has a background and identity. Language is an identity, if God wanted all of us to be solely English speaking we would not be worshipping God in different tribes, as the Good book mentioned. It also connects the person to “Home”, to culture, to their background. And it helps the child’s brain to be opened to learning other languages because when he/ she speaks perhaps their dialect and English, they already are aware that there is something different about these two languages they are speaking, so when they encounter another language, they easily flow.
What is your advice to grown adults who don’t have mother-tongue literacy and parents who are literate with young children?
I have met adults that didn’t know much about their dialect but are making serious efforts, they connect with their tribal people, ask questions, attend cultural activities, listen and watch on the media some marry from home to help (Lol). And they have improved. So, if you are willing, there is always a way, and these adults should remember that it’s never too late to start anything you have put your heart to.
What other plans and projects towards mother-tongue literacy do you have in the works?
The DVD is one aspect of the project, we are creating an App for indigenes in the diaspora to be part of this movement. We also are going into live events (series) where history about tribes, food displays will take place. And questions can be asked. And for the other ideas my team is still deliberating so, I’ll let you know what other plans we’ve got.
Give us a last remark
Times are changing, it’s OK to be compliant with trends, but remember where you are coming from. Give your children the foundation, show them pictures of their grandparents if they are late. If they have tribal names, tell them the meanings of their names and yours too. Don’t give them an impression the village is some dirty place for old people. Remember there could be a very important reason to go back home at some point in your life. If you want to know more about this ask the politicians. We owe our children this RIGHT to know about their tribes let’s not deprive them of such an opportunity.
Storytime is my little way of encouraging children to learn their languages and culture. Use it as much as you can.
The Importance of the mother tongue and maintaining our traditions cannot be emphasised. Make an effort today to learn your mother tongue and teach your children.
For similar stories on this series check here
Thank you for Reading.
Last modified: April 10, 2021