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The feasibility of sustainable Obolo bilingual education in Nigeria

Aaron, M. J. (2018) The feasibility of sustainable Obolo bilingual education in Nigeria. PhD thesis, University of Reading

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To link to this item DOI: 10.48683/1926.00082043


Persuaded by research that mother tongue-based bilingual education would offer a more effective and meaningful education for most Nigerian children than is possible with the current mainly English model, and therefore a better basis for human as well as economic development, this case study investigates the feasibility of using Obolo, a minority language of the Niger-Delta area of Nigeria, as a medium of instruction (in addition to English) for education, and seeks for ways to promote it. The theoretical underpinnings for this study are Bourdieu’s Linguistic Capital and Ethnolinguistic vitality theory. This study is constructivist and critical in orientation, and uses focus group interviews with Obolo parents, semi-structured interviews with officials in the State Ministries of Education over education in the area, and participant observation, to arrive at an emic point of view about the value of Obolo/mother tongue and English, especially in relation to education. It was found that education is highly important for Obolo people, and perceived as worthy of great effort and expense on the part of the parents. It is seen as the key to progress, both for individuals and their families, but also for the entire Obolo community. My focus group interviews (with 54 participants) demonstrated that the welfare of the community, identified as a feature of “traditional African communalism”, is very much in the forefront of their thinking, but also that it becomes less prominent with higher levels of education, evidence that Nigerian curriculum and pedagogies are missing this authentically African orientation to life. Findings of this case study confirm the negative attitudes to African indigenous languages, and the rising hegemony of English, the language of economic and social upward mobility, employment and education. Ambivalently, Obolo is also cherished for identity purposes, and for communication within the family and community, though children in cities are increasingly speaking English (only). Applying Ethnolinguistic Vitality theory to the findings on attitudes, it was found that Obolo has medium ethnolinguistic vitality, the result of micro language planning at the grassroots level, and the support of a community-owned language development organisation. Ethnolinguistic Vitality theory also helped to explain an observed sudden increase in Obolo interest in the use of their language after grand public occasions celebrating achievements in the development of the language. The researcher informed the research participants of alternative models of education in developed countries, for them to be able to form an informed opinion about Obolo bilingual education. In contrast to most other minority language groups in the Niger-Delta, who prefer English only, over two thirds of the participants discussing this point expressed interest in a continued use of Obolo as medium of instruction up to Primary 6, or even beyond. There is also a desire for the teaching of Obolo as a subject in urban areas. Finally, exploring the importance of these findings, recommendations for the introduction and promotion of bilingual education in the region are offered. Several templates for extensive ‘marketing’ both to Obolo parents and to policy makers are identified, and high profile celebrations of achievements in language development, and tools for the use of the language in IT are recommended. Further, arguments are made for model Obolo bilingual schools, which use and teach Obolo all through Primary and Junior Secondary education education.

Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Thesis Supervisor:Edwards, V. and Rassool, N.
Thesis/Report Department:The Institute of Education
Identification Number/DOI:
Divisions:Interdisciplinary centres and themes > National Centre for Language and Literacy
ID Code:82043
Additional Information:Redacted version. Parts removed for data protection reasons.


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