A total of N1.6m has been voted by Victor&Helen Foundation as prize award for students drawn from different secondary schools in Akwa Ibom State who will emerge winners of the 2023 Ibibio Bible quiz competition.

This, according to the foundation was in a quest to save the Ibibio language from extinction, arguing that the death of a language was equally the loss of a people and their unique culture.

The foundation said that the competition would be divided into two categories; Senior Secondary School (SSS) classes and Junior Secondary School (JSS) classes.

For SSS classes, the first, second, and third winners will go home with 500,000 naira, 300,000 naira, and 200,000 naira, respectively, while JSS class winners will also go home with 300, 000 naira, 200,000 naira and 100, 000 naira.

Addressing a press conference,  in Uyo, the Chairman of the competition, Dr. Frank Ude commended the foundation for rising to the occasion to save the mother tongue from extinction, adding that the competition was one of the ways the group is working to achieve the goal.

He hinted that the Foundation was about to embark on the provision of some of the teaching materials to aid teaching and learning in the Ibibio programme from secondary to tertiary institutions in the state.

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According to Ude, the foundation is already in partnership with the Department of Linguistics and Nigerian Languages, University of Uyo, to make the course more prestigious by awarding scholarships to best-performing students of the Ibibio programme in the department.

He warned parents and guardians against killing the indigenous language by making use of only the English language with little or no attention to the Ibibio language, arguing that home becomes the first school that children learn from.

“Language identifies a people. Language also identifies a culture. Efforts have been made by language engineers to keep languages alive because the death of a language is tantamount to the loss of people and their culture, as language is inextricably tied to culture and vice versa. That is why it is very pertinent to keep our languages in Akwa Ibom State alive.

“Children in the Ibibio communities are being spoken to in a language other than that of their parents, thus making them passive bilinguals and the result is that these children are, by instalments, ceasing to make use of the language or using it in an increasingly reduced number of communicative domains. This, of course, is not a good omen for the language and its survival.

“Quite erroneously, people go with the notion that language studies, nay Ibibio studies lack opportunities for career advancement. As a result, many refuse to enrol or allow their wards to enrol for the language course in tertiary institutions.

“But quite interestingly, a good number of people have been able to carve a niche for themselves by virtue of studying the Ibibio language as a course. There are opportunities like serving as a skilled Translator/Interpreter, Copywriter/Editor, Language Consultant, Ibibio Language Teacher, University Lecturer, Author/Publisher, Advertiser/brander, Lexicographer, actor/actor trainer, language and cultural entrepreneur et cetera.”

He however appealed to the government to implement the policy directive mandating the use of the mother tongue as a medium of instruction in schools.