Nigeria: Time to revive the Arabic language village

Following the restoration of relative peace in northeast Nigeria after more than a decade of insurgency, Governor Babagana Umara Zulum of Borno State has repeatedly announced in recent months the government’s intention to the state to close the camps for internally displaced persons and return the victims of the insurrection. to their native homes. The governor had reassured people of improved security; claiming that “we now have 25 LGAs where people live, especially at the LGA headquarters”.

In addition to the displaced persons, many schools and institutions in the same northeast of the country also suffered destruction of infrastructure and were consequently displaced. The Nigeria Arabic Language Village (NALV) is one of many public institutions relocated from its site in Borno State. The insurgents not only destroyed its physical structures, but also completely disrupted its academic activities; prevent undergraduate university students and their college of education counterparts from traveling to NALV for the mandatory language immersion program.

NALV is an inter-university center for Arabic studies in Nigeria. It was established in 1992 to meet the language immersion needs of students offering the Arabic language in Nigerian universities. Previously, students taking the Bachelor of Arts (BA) program in all Nigerian universities were sent to an Arabic-speaking country at government expense for the one-year immersion program. The trip abroad was designed to enable Arab students to acquire the four basic language skills, which, according to National Universities Commission (NUC) guidelines, were a graduation requirement for these students. .

By the mid-1980s, sending students for the Arabic degree program increasingly became a huge financial burden on the government. It is in this context that the federal government set up a ministerial planning committee in the late 1980s on the creation of the Arabic language village. The report and recommendations of this committee led to the establishment of NALV as well as the French Language Village in Badagry to separately cater to the immersion needs of students of these two international languages ​​in Nigerian universities.

Ngala, which is an Arabic-speaking community in Borno State, was chosen as the location for the NALV. This was intended to help students acquire the required skills and fluency in the Arabic language. The choice of Ngala as the host community for the NALV site was deliberate. It is an indigenous community inhabited by Shuwa Arabs who are native speakers of a dialect of the Arabic language from northeastern Nigeria. Ngala provides non-native Arabic learners with the necessary linguistic environment to facilitate language acquisition in a non-Arabic country, Nigeria. Ngala directly exposes Arabic learners to the culture of its native speakers just as it also offers them the opportunity to apply the grammatical and phonological rules of the language learned in the classroom.

Speaking to foreign and local humanitarian partners in Maiduguri recently, Governor Zulum said the internally displaced have asked that they be allowed to return home. Just as displaced people struggle to leave their respective camps due to the abnormal life that characterizes these humanitarian accommodations, NALV is also anxious to return to its permanent site in Ngala due to logistical constraints that prevent it from carrying out accomplish its mission. statutory mandate. For example, NALV’s continued stay in Maiduguri, which is not an Arabic-speaking community and lacks hostel accommodation, lecture halls and other basic facilities for students, seeks to undermine functions for which the institution exists. To remain in a state of perpetual humanitarian situation or to allow such a situation to become the norm is neither the wish of the displaced persons nor that of the displaced public institutions.

For the revitalization efforts of the current NALV leadership to bear fruit and for full functional academic activities to resume, all structures of the institution destroyed at its Ngala site must first be rebuilt. Daily Trust therefore calls on the Federal Government, the Borno State Government and the North East Development Commission to initiate and support special interventions for the reconstruction of NALV. If it is safe enough for the displaced people to return to the newly constructed houses in their LGA headquarters or villages, it is also time to rebuild, relaunch and bring the NALV back to Ngala.