Do not speak in vernacular

By Segun Oladejo, from Ede, Nigeria. Segun, 24, is a student at the University of Ilorin. Please read his article and leave your thoughts and comments below.

“Do not speak in vernacular”. That was my first challenge in my first year of secondary school. My joy knew no bound as I was admitted into secondary school at a very tender age compared to my colleagues then. I was the local champion in my primary and I had boasted that I would be the overall champion when I got to secondary school. Little did I know that I would be speaking to only one person for a whole term. The only person that was in the same shoes. I was humbled with this. I couldn’t even tell my friends about my experience whenever they asked about the school.

My first week was hell on earth for me. I couldn’t interact with my colleagues all in the name of ‘Do not speak in vernacular’ syndrome. Only people from my locality can understand this syndrome. It makes it compulsory for every student to communicate in English language at all time but not in our local language. Failure to abide with this may lead to payment of a fine or beating from teachers. The class captain was saddled with the responsibility of writing names of those who spoke in native language. What now befell those of us who didn’t know how to communicate in the English language but only in our mother tongue? It was very simple: shut your mouth throughout the school hour.

It is a notorious fact that education, which is the bedrock of social engineering and development, should be acquired by interaction between students and teachers, but the reverse is the case in my area as only the students that could speak English language had full access to teachers, while we the dullards (as we were referred to) were relegated to the background. Anytime I didn’t understand what my teacher was teaching, I dared not ask a question. How would I even say it.

That was the fate of we who were not born with a silver spoon but in the ultimate quest to get one. We who did not have the opportunity to go to a private nursery and primary school couldn’t speak English like those who did. And I know that the ‘Do not speak in vernacular’ syndrome is still at work now starting from primary schools.

This syndrome inter alia is one of the problems facing the development of education in my country. How can you be teaching a pupil in a language he or she doesn’t understand? When I couldn’t gain anything academically I stylishly asked my father one day whether in his secondary school days they communicated in English language. His answer was NO. As a parent he understood my challenges but I later got to know that he wanted me to face them as a man.

He always tell me that when obstacles arise, change your direction, but not your decision to succeed in the course. This is the principle that has been keeping me going since I was a kid. I have now formulated a theory in which I interpreted all my teacher taught me in my mother tongue.

‘Do not speak in vernacular’ syndrome is one of the major factors causing failure in examination by students today because they don’t understand the depth of what they are being taught. The first Professor of Education in Nigeria, Professor Babatunde Fafunwa once said that the best way to impact knowledge should be through one’s native language

Education has been described as the bedrock of any nation that wants development. But one keeps wondering, are under-developed countries not educated? The answer is NO. They are educated, but not in their heart, only in their head. “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.” (Nelson Mandela)

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