This study was carried out to determine the influence of parents’ socio-economic status on the students’ performance in Igbo language in secondary schools in both Ụzọ-Ụwanị and Nsụkka Local Government Area of Enugu State. This study was designed to find out the educational level of the parents, the socio-economic status of the parents, the influence of educational level of the parents and the influence of socio-economic status of parents on the students learning Igbo language. Four research questions were generated while two null hypotheses were formulated to guide the researcher. A total number of 660 respondents were involved in supplying data needed for the study. The data were obtained through a structured questionnaire of forty items. The data were analyzed using mean, standard deviation and t-test. Based on the research findings, it was discovered that socio-economic status of the parents influenced the students’ performance negatively in Igbo language. Moreso, it was established that most parents have low educational level and low socio-economic level which in effect influenced students’ consciousness and willingliness in learning the Igbo language. The researcher therefore, recommended that parents, teachers of Igbo language and the school guidance councilors should as a matter of responsibility help in sensitizing the students in learning the Igbo language. This would go a long way in creating positive attitude among the students towards the study of Igbo language in the schools.
Background of the Study
Language is man’s greatest asset and it is very fundamental to his self-fulfillment. It is the vehicle through which ideas, feelings, thoughts, information, skills, knowledge and culture are transmitted. This makes communication, interaction and learning very possible among people. Language plays an important role in teaching and learning. It is man’s exclusive means of communication using signs and symbols to express emotions and wills. Ali (2000) defines language as “… a means of communication of ideas, facts, figures and thoughts. Consequently, it plays a very vital role in all aspects of human development”. According to Trager in Mgbodile (1999), language is a system of arbitrary vocal symbols by means of which the member of a total culture communicate. Also, other linguists like Brooks and Naldman as quoted in Huxley and Ingram in Azikiwe (1998), view language as a learned systematic, symbolic, vocal behaviour, and a culturally acquired and exclusive mark of man. Nwadike (1999) states that without language of its own, a nation becomes merged and lost in the foreign group whose language it is forced to speak. A nation identifies itself and ensures its perpetuation. It is man’s greatest asset and it is very fundamental to his self-fulfillment.
Again, Radford, Akinson, Britain, Caltisen and Spencer in Anozie (2007) see language as a complex structure represented in the minds of its speakers. Likewise, Azikiwe (1998) views language as a means of social control, it is a collection of motor responses, it functions symbolically and so is used for verbal communication. Ajakobi (1997) states that, one of the notable functions of language is to record observations, incidents and processes. Language, he said has also been considered as a product and an integral part of culture. It reflects the culture of the people concerned and their worldview. However, with the advent of the English language and white man in Nigeria, the acquisition of the whiteman’s language and culture, and the interaction with other people from other tribes in Nigeria, the Igbo man has been known to neglect his languages and cultural attire.
Besides, Nwadike (2000) asserts that the greatest problem that has faced Igbo from all times is the apathy of the Igboman towards the language. He prefers to express himself more in English than Igbo. His attitude towards written materials in Igbo is negative. He further frowns at many Igbo parents who do not speak Igbo language to their children.
Igbo language is the language spoken by the Igbo people, and ethnic group that lives in the eastern part of Nigeria. Igbo language is grouped among the “kwa” language of Benue-Congo group of the language family. It is one of the three major languages recognized in Nigeria (Hausa, Igbo, Yoruba). Language and culture go together, therefore, any language be it Igbo, Hausa, Yoruba serves as conveyor belt that propels the culture of the people who own it. Ameh (1991) said that language in any society is an indispensable tool for unity and development.
Thus, the federal government of Nigeria realizes the importance of language and indeed the mother-tongue, and consequently states in Federal Republic of Nigeria (2004), among other things, that the medium of instruction in primary school should be the mother-tongue or the language of the immediate environment. The term mother tongue or mother language is used for the language that a person learnt at home usually from their parents. It is the first language learned at home in childhood and still understood by the individual at a later age. Mother tongue does not mean that the language is that of one’s mother. Mother in this context probably originated from the use of “mother” as origin; as in mother-country or mother-land. In some countries like Kenya and India, “mother tongue” is used to indicate the language of one’s ethnic group (ethnic tongue). This is very necessary since language is an effective medium for people to interact meaningfully as well as potent vehicle for them to express and transmit their culture. Thus, there is need to start from the primary schools to learn the cultures of the people who own the language, and it is believed that teaching these children their language from this early stage will aid the pupils to acquire the speaker’s competence in the language.
In some schools in Igbo speaking region, the authorities debare their students from speaking their mother tongue even up to the tune of paying fines ranging from five naira to twenty naira. Nwadike (2002) stated that others do not reckon with Igbo on the false pretence that it lacks certain kinds of technical vocabulary, either because of its inherent linguistic poverty or because as it is not used for certain kinds of discourse, its words will not assume technical significance in those discourses. But during the Nigeria/Biafra Civil War (1967 – 1970), continued, because Igbo language was used in technology, some Igbo names were developed such appellations as Ogbuniigwe, BokeetiOjukwu, Ogbunando, Igbokwe, Agbaraọjọọ, these names are just like the Japanese technology that introduced names such as – Yamaha, Toyota, Honda, Suzuki, Kawasaki, Toshiba and Mitsubishi.
Language unites and integrate people, for instance, the people who are not of the same language group but understand each other’s languages are tied together as one by the language. According to Bamgbose (1976), teaching the pupils the Nigerian languages will enable them know as early as possible the culture of the people who own the language and their good ways of doing things. This will make them, right from primary schools, respect each others ideas, values and beliefs. When they know all these, it will make them behave like brothers and sisters. When they eventually graduate with the spirit of oneness inculcated in them through language, they will build a society that would be tied together as one unity in diversity and there will be stability.
In buying and selling also, language does a very good work. Somebody who understands a language stands a better chance of buying and selling than those who do not understand such a language. They tend to speak with one voice, and agree with one heart. For instance, the mono linguistic approach to Hausa as a common language of the North makes them more united and stable than their southern counterparts who do not have a unifying language in transmitting cultural beliefs, norms and values, enhancing buying and selling, unifying and integrating people, among others, there is the need to constantly examine the state of language teaching and learning in our schools. Particularly, the state of the Igbo language study at the Secondary School level deserves attention. Okoye (1995) explains that at this level language learning is a conscious activity rather than behaviour acquisition and teaching the language is more of disorganization rather than acquisition, thus, learning becomes a tedious process which inspires repulsive attitude.
Furthermore, it is continued in the National Policy on Education (2004) that a child should be encouraged to learn any of the three major Nigerian languages such as Igbo, Hausa and Yoruba, this is to promote our culture and for national unity.
The federal government of Nigeria in an effort to promote the use of indigenous language in Nigeria, made a pronouncement that the business of the National Assembly shall be conducted in English language, Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba languages until when adequate arrangements have been made. This was an effort to get a national language which was very difficult in Nigeria because of her multi-lingual nature.
Moreso, the document of Federal Republic of Nigeria (1979) places much importance to the study of indigenous language, when it stated thus:
In addition to appreciating the importance of language in the education process and as a means of preserving the people’s culture, the government considers it to be in the interest of national unity that each child should be encouraged to learn one of the three major languages other than his own mother tongue. In this connection, the government considers the three major languages in Nigeria to be Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba (FRN, 1979).
The potential role of these languages (if studied by the rising generation) for national unity is undeniable. Infact, there are reasonable speculations to the effect that if seriously taught in the school system, one of them will eventually emerge as a national language without government imposing it on the nation (Abba, 1976).
Nwadike (2002) further elaborates the current trend in Igbo studies. He said that following the introduction of the 6-3-3-4 education system in Nigeria, the National Education Research Development Council (NERDC), for example, has designed much improved syllabuses for Igbo at the primary and secondary schools levels, and which the WAEC has adopted at Secondary School level.
In spite of the government’s effort towards encouraging the learning of the major Nigerian languages, Igbo language being one of them in schools, studies have indicated a declining trend in the enrolment and performance of Senior Secondary School students in Igbo language examinations. Some students who study Igbo language in secondary schools do so under the instruction of their parents. Even the few that study Igbo language, do not exhibit any interest in the language. This is believed by both psychologists and sociologists to have some influence on the student’s learning. Wilkins (1974) was particular that such social factors influence language learning.
In Nigeria, education has been a major factor associated with social mobility. And the social class is a sociological (socio-economic) variable, which is seen to be an important factor in educational achievement. The educational development of the child can be perceived as an unfolding process governed merely by maturity and perhaps teacher’s efforts. The background of the parents is also a strong factor in the child’s reading readiness. In this parental background of the child, what is considered most is the educational and socio-economic status of parents which affect the child’s readiness to learn. Uche (1998) states that family environment is the most important factor in the child’s language learning. The child whose parents talk with him a great deal develops better in language than one who grows up in a family in which he is ignored or told to keep quiet. In addition to providing the child with language experiences, the family provides the language model that is the kind of language he is going to imitate. So the parents’ educational level and socio-economic status are important factors that can influence the child’s performance in Igbo language.