12 Dec 2012

Lingua Franca

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The school recently just introduced a club system. For the first hour on Wednesday, the students were divided arbitrarily into groups and allotted a club. Some got the farming club to till the vegetable garden at the back of the school. Some are in the Drama club, dancing and acting their hearts out early in the morning. Some are in the reading club looking bleary eyed as a teacher keeps talking about the importance of reading. I have been assigned to the reading club as a support partner for the teacher in charge.

On the first day of our meeting, we spent a good portion of the one-hour conducting prayer. First there was the opening prayer. When there seemed to be a lull, the teacher asked the students to pray for her. After that, she asked them to pray for me. Then we had the closing prayer. In between all this prayer, she had a bit of time to talk to the students about reading. She kept on vacillating between the English language and Yoruba language. Well, mostly she spoke in Yoruba language. I should mention that the teacher is the English teacher so she has a vested interest in getting the kids to speak proper English.

Sometimes it is hard to ascertain the official language of instruction and communication in the school. In the staff room when students come to have disputes resolved, the lingua franca is Yoruba. In certain circumstances, when the teachers get exasperated, they will demand that the student communicate with them in English. When the teachers want to send the students on errands, they speak Yoruba to them also. It is never ‘go get me food”; it is “bami lo ra onje”.

Even in the classroom, there is a healthy dose of Yoruba being used to teach. One morning, I was sitting in the staff room when another corps member got that look on her face like a cat that got cream. The gist of the day was the fact the corps member teaching commerce had instructed the class in Yoruba for an extended period of time. She expected me to be shocked but I was not. As much as I hate the fact that Yoruba seems to be overtaking English in the school, I have become part of the problem myself.

When I first came to the school, and was invigilating an examination, I announced, “You have half an hour left to complete your paper.” This girl looked at me with the strangest eyes. She just could not process what I had uttered. Then another student noticed and yelled a Yoruba translation to her. It was only then she got what I was trying to say.

As I teach Literature in class, I try to avoid speaking Yoruba in class. However, there are moments when I am forced to speak Yoruba. Take for example, one day I stood at the front of the class screaming, “Keep quiet!” The students ignored me. I felt like I was losing my sanity. It was only after I screamed “E dake!” that noise subsided.

by Sinmi
2012 9JEducation.org work-study

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