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Foundation Raises Alarm over Endangered Status of Ibibio Language 

Foundation Raises Alarm over Endangered Status of Ibibio Language 

Prof. Friday Ude briefing the press

… Institutes Bible Quiz in Ibibio Language 

By Ekemini Simon

A non-governmental organisation, Victor and Helen Foundation has raised alarm over the endangered status of Ibibio Language urging Akwa Ibom people to take the language seriously else it will go extinct in the next few years.

Ibibio Language is indigenous to the people of Akwa Ibom State.

In a press statement read on Saturday, January 28, 2023 by the Associate Professor of the Department of Linguistics and Nigerian Languages, Professor Friday Ude, before the Bible Quiz Competition in Ibibio language organised for secondary schools in Akwa Ibom State held in Uyo,   he noted that Ibibio Language is currently at the stage of ” definitely endangered”, implying that the language has very few children learning it as a mother tongue at home.

The Foundation explained “This is the status of the Ibibio language especially in the urban areas and if the trend is not checked, the language may, in the next few years become severely endangered. 

“Children in the Ibibio communities are being spoken to in a language other than that of their parents, thus making them passive bilinguals and the result is that these children are, by instalments, ceasing to make use of the language or using it in an increasingly reduced number of communicative domains. This, of course, is not a good omen for the language and its survival”.

They said the endangered status of Ibibio Language is the reason why The Victor and Helen Foundation has, as their concerted contribution, come up with the Ibibio Bible competition for children as a way of making them make use of the language at home, since the Bible is most times read at home. 

Victor and Helen Foundation noted that as the children read the Bible passages given to them, they will surely seek help from their parents or elders, and by doing so, increase their frequency of using Ibibio language at home.

 They explained that a language is said to be under threat or endangered when: first, the number of speakers currently living is far less than the population of people living in the speech community; second, the mean age of native and/or fluent speakers tilts more towards adulthood; and third, the percentage of the youngest generation acquiring fluency with the language in question is very low. 

The Foundation pointed out that in language documentation studies, language endangerment has been ranked to range from vulnerable, definitely endangered, severely endangered, critically endangered and extinct.

They debunked what they described as the erroneous perception people have of the language, especially studying it in the university, saying that many opportunities abound for people who study Ibibio as a course in the university.

Students and the press during the briefing.

The organisation highlighted some of the opportunities to include, serving as skilled Translator/Interpreter, Copywriter/Editor, Language Consultant, Ibibio Language Teacher, University Lecturer, Author/Publisher, Advertiser/brander, Lexicographer, actor/actor trainer, language and cultural entrepreneur et cetera. 

They offered insight to the fact that a graduate of the Ibibio programme can also work to develop materials for different populations, train teachers, design assessments, find effective ways to teach language-related topics in specific communities, or use the language of a community effectively in instruction.

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The organisation explained that an Ibibio graduate who takes on the mentioned job schedule as a career will certainly progress within and above the ranks, which also Include opportunity for online lessons especially for Ibibio people in the diaspora.

While stating that Ibibio is a prestigious course, the Foundation noted that a graduate of the language can comfortably compete with other graduates in the Arts/Humanities and can fit in to jobs specifically meant for them, which others in the Arts/Humanities cannot fit in (example translating/interpreting). 

The Foundation disclosed that it is already partnering with the Department of Linguistics and Nigerian Languages, University of Uyo, to make the course more prestigious by awarding scholarships to best performing students of Ibibio programme in the Department.

While decrying the dearth of materials like audio, audiolingual, audiovisual, visual, electronic interactive, print, Computers, graphing calculators, slides, tapes, tablets, comics/cartoons, fiction materials, audiobooks in schools for the teaching and learning of Ibibio language,  the Foundation said it is making plans to provide the materials in order to ease the challenges of learning the language. 

They commended the policy of the government regarding the use of the mother tongue like Ibibio as a worthy development and will help the growth of the language. “As it stands now, the new policy has it that the mother tongue be used as the medium of instruction from primary school. This policy directive is yet to be implemented. However, the strides made by linguists with the support of stakeholders like Victor and Helen Foundation can see to the execution of this policy once enough teaching and learning materials are handy.”

Founded in 2017 by Dr Victor Ekpenyong and Mrs Helen, the Foundation has since inception undergone several philanthropic projects in the education sector such as the one-year scholarship programme awarded to ten natives of Edem Idim Ibakesi in Ini local government area of Akwa Ibom state. In 2019, the Foundation undertook a road intervention project in Ibakesi community of Ini local government area; and in 2020, it conducted the renovation of MOPOL19 restrooms, Port Harcourt.

From 2021 till date, Victor and Helen Foundation has made provision of writing materials for some rural schools in Bayelsa State through Niger Delta Youth Coalition.

The Bible Quiz Competition instituted by the Organisation for secondary schools in Akwa Ibom State will have winners bestowed with prizes ranging from N500,000, N300,000, N200,000, among others.

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