As part of efforts to prevent Esan language spoken in the central Senatorial zone of Edo State from going into extinction, a professional body; Association of Esan Professional (AEP) and traditional rulers from the district want it included in schools’ curriculum.
This is just as they advised parents to teach and speak the language to their children always, thereby preventing it from becoming extinct in another 25 years.
They made the call during the just concluded AEP 12th Esan Economic Empowerment Workshop with the theme, “Esan Language: Is it on the verge of Extinction?” at the Samuel Adegboyega University Hall, Ogwa, Edo State.
President of AEP and former Speaker of Edo State House of Assembly, Matthew Egbadon, said the gathering was to brainstorm on the need to prevent the language from becoming extinct, as it was fast dying, because parents no longer speak to their children, just as the children of pure Esan parentage do not even speak the language to their wards.
He said AEP is trying to prevent a situation where Esan language will no longer be spoken by Esan children and that today, Esan language is endangered, hence the need to salvage it.
According to him, “If you don’t understand Ishan language, there is no way you will understand the culture itself.”
He recalled that during his primary school days, he was taught Esan language but that today the language is no longer taught in schools and that this further makes the language to extinct faster.
“We want Esan language re-introduced in schools’ curriculum. We intend to reach out to our people abroad on this matter. It is a very serious one. We have come to seek support and prayers of every Esan man and woman,” he added.
Speaker of the Edo State of Assembly, Dr Justin Okonoboh, however assured that the language cannot go into extinction, adding that even the French and English people also entertain such fear.
He recalled that the Oba of Benin, Oba Ewuare 11, had also called for the inclusion of Edo language and history in schools’ curriculum while receiving his staff of office, during the coronation ceremony.
The Speaker promised to ensure that Esan language does not go into extinction.
According to him, “I know we can prevent Esan language from dying with the caliber of people in AEP in particular and Esan in general”
Chairman of the occasion and the Ojomon of Ekpoma , Chief Ezikiel Ainabe, however noted that the fear of Esan language going into extinction is real, as Esan children no longer speak the language .
He said that the very aim of this gathering organised by AEP is to discuss and proffer solutions on how best to revive Esan speaking of Esan language.
According to him, “It is high time we address this issue of Esan language going into extinction once and for all. That is the reason why we are here to draw the attention of Esan people to the danger of allowing the language to die.”
He stated that the AEP would put pressure on authority to ensure that the language is not only spoken but that it is also taught in schools, adding it would not be out of place if it is made a compulsory in schools
On the way forward, the chairman stated that the association would ensure that Esan language is made compulsory in schools in Esan land.
To buttress his point, he stated that AEP organised a quiz competition for students from the local governments in the state to encourage them to speak Esan.
Also speaking, the Onojie of Ekpoma, Ehizojie Abumere Anthony II, who commended AEP for the bringing the issue to the fore, added that when he heard that the group was coming to his palace, he decided to wait because the issue also is a source of concern to him.
According to him, “I have been thinking of what you are doing about Esan language that is fast dying and no longer taught in schools. The issue should give any real Ishan man concern.”
He pointed out that two things that are giving him serious concerns include: firstly, that the voice of Esan people is no longer heard or vociferous and that secondly, that Esan history is no longer taught in schools.
He commended AEP for its efforts at reviving Esan language in Schools, adding that anybody that does what the association is doing; promoting Esan language needs support and prayers.
In his words, “Any man that does not speak his father’s language is a slave. It is a new pattern of slavery.”
On the way forward, the Onojie of Ekpoma advised AEP to first and foremost take the issue of bringing back Esan language into schools’ curriculum with the Ministry of Education, adding that that is where the problem started from.
He also advised the group to carry along the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT) Esan Chapter, as according to him the chapter is made up of Esan speaking men and women.
On his part, the Onojie of Ogwa , His Royal Highness, Zaiki Victor Agbomere Ehizojie 11 re-echoed the words of the Onogie of Ekpoma but decried a situation where despite the fact that both parents are Esan, yet the children cannot speak Esan language.
He argued that a situation where children abandon Esan language and speak other language amounts to backward civilisation, adding that the issues raised by ARP are worth discussing.
The traditional ruler stated that if care was not taken, the language may die in the next 25 years, adding that culture is not all about language but that it also includes dance.
He said that of all the dances by Esan people only the Igbabonelimin that is still very popular till date, but that despite that it is very difficult to find Esan youths learning how to dance Igbabonelimin.
He listed some of the Esan dances that are fast go into extinction to include Asolo and others.
According to him, “Even if we were brought up and stay in Lagos, we must learn to speak Esan language”
He thanked AEP for making efforts at reintroducing Esan language in schools curriculum, adding that by the grace of God efforts of the group will not be in vain.
We should support those promoting Esan culture. We thank those of you for the efforts at reviving the teaching of Esan language in schools”
Contributing to the discussion, the Chairman, Planning Committee, Prof. Michael Ikhariale said that the association as part of efforts to ensue Esan language does not die has appealed to the university to establish a department of Esan language and culture in the university.