Why Chibok Schoolgirls Don’t Speak English

Why Chibok Schoolgirls Don’t Speak English

By Vanguard on May 24, 2014
A female student stands in a burnt classroom at Maiduguri Experimental School, a private nursery, primary and secondary school burnt by the Islamist group Boko Haram to keep children away from school in Maiduguri, northeastern Nigeria, May 12, 2012.(Photo Credit: Pius Utomi Ekpei /AFP/GettyImages)

Many members of the Nigerian public have been vocal in expressing their concerned over the abducted Borno girls’who do not communicate in English during their press interviews. They mostly spoke in Hausa. Over 95 per cent of students in public schools in the State cannot express themselves in English, although, their written English is reportedly better.

Some reasons were adduced for the situation, the major one being the poor standard of education and the quality of teachers in public schools across the state. Teaching Service Board officials tend to favour their kinsmen over qualified applicants.

Most teachers in the rural areas and the students prefer speaking their own dialect either in the classrooms or during school hours, making English language secondary.
Governor Kashim Shettima admitted in an interview that, “In 2011 WAEC examinations, only three students at one of the government secondary schools in Northern Borno Senatorial District had five credits, including mathematics and English language. The Three students were not from the State as their fathers were serving soldiers at Monguno Military Barracks”.

 Four abducted students were reunited with their families in Chibok, Nigeria, last month. (Photo Credit: Credit Haruna Umar/Associated Pres)
Four abducted students were reunited with their families in Chibok, Nigeria, last month. (Photo Credit: Credit Haruna Umar/Associated Pres)

The Chibok girls reflected the quality of teachers in public schools in Borno State. Chibok, a local government headquarter, has only one secondary school, which also serves people from neighbouring local government areas. Recently, the school, which used to be only for girls, was converted to a mixed school, admitting male students as non-residents.

Who’s To Blame
A teacher in the school, Mr. Amos Dawi said, “Apart from the poor quality of teaching materials and unqualified teachers, the students themselves are not helping matters, as most of them devote their interest to farming.

“Chibok and other schools in the state have no English or Mathematics teachers. Rarely would students from JSS I to SS III have these teachers throughout their stay in school. In fact, most of these students are not taught English properly from year one to their final year”. An educationist, Dr. James John attributed the problem to lack of training and retraining of teachers by the Borno State Teaching Service Board. The board does not organise workshops for its teachers, especially those in rural areas.

Yakubu Iliya, a student, blamed the teachers. “Where the teachers are qualified, they do not take their work serious because ministry officials hardly supervise them. Most teachers prefer being posted to schools in Maiduguri. The unqualified ones are posted to rural areas, where they abandon their profession for farming and businesses”.

‘We Don’t Want To Speak English’
One of the freed schoolgirls, who did not give her name, for security reasons explained their dilemma in the matter. “Another major reason we are not speaking English is the trauma we are undergoing. It is not because we cannot speak English. Each time we want to speak English to journalists, we feel the terrorists are still watching us, so we quickly switch to Hausa, which is our dominant language in the North without realising it. Only those who have been through what we suffered can understand this. Boko Haram hates anything to do with Western education and the ability to speak the English language is an indication to them that one has Western education”.

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