The importance of African languages in higher education was once again stressed at the Lagos State University distinguished lecture series where two Professors from Boston and Austin in the United State of America were guest lecturers who delivered lectures on the topic.
In his own lecture titled “African Languages in Higher Education: Challenges and Opportunities” Director, African Language Programme, Department of Anthropology, African Studies Center, Boston University, Prof. Fallou Ngom, said result of neglect of African languages leads to misunderstanding of Africans, their beliefs and cultures.
He cautioned that other languages are being promoted at the expense of African languages while stereotypes on Africans and their languages and incapable of conveying modern concepts continue even among Africans.
“Communication gaps between leaders and the population to address local health and development challenges persist.
African languages are not handicaps to development and social stability; professionalising the field of African languages in training foreigners, students, researchers, diplomats, business people in localising technologies will generate jobs”, he said.
The don noted that African languages are gold mines not useless dialects as people have been made to believe for centuries.
In his own treaty, Prof. Toyin Falola from Austin spoke on “Third World Universities: Challenges of Knowledge Production, Utilisation and Administration in the 21st Century”.
According to him, Africans are part of global economy and this should be calibrated into global market adding that students should join in promoting their universities because they are part of the e-knowledge economy.
He also urged African universities to think globally, create a diaspora of network of knowledge and promote the idea of joint conferences, seminars and joint research in order to globalise themselves.
“We have to go beyond the fact that universities were born in the colonial era, we have to rethink ways of funding universities to start thinking of self-empowerment and link education to entrepreneurship and youth empowerment”, he said.
Prof. Falola also urged universities to involve students in building courses that will empower their lives, involve them in the kinds of knowledge and skills they want to be taught adding that the brains of young people can process so many things.
He also advised universities to benefit from knowledge created in other countries and also come up with their own areas of talents and take seriously their own epistemology.
Other suggestions he offered include coming up with reward system by giving incentive to productive people, citing the case of America where two Professors cannot earn the same salary as universities in USA pay those who invest time and energy in researches than others.
“We have to recommend incentives based on rewards, universities must benefit from members in the diaspora. If we can survive the slave trade and colonialism, it means we can survive all challenges”, he said.
Former Executive Secretary of National Universities Commission (NUC), Prof. Peter Okebukola, at the occasion, said people outside the country speak ill of Nigerian education system but Nigerian Professors are highly celebrated outside the country.
He said the age of a university is proportionate to its performance in terms of ranking for instance he said Harvard University was created in 18th century and the budget for Harvard alone is like budgeting for the whole universities in Nigeria for the next 30 years.