A fact that cannot be dismissed with a wave of a hand is that Yoruba civilization is one of the most ancient, advanced and urbanized in the world with various forms of evidence demonstrating this. Indeed history has it that the Yorubas have traditionally been among the most skilled and productive craftsmen in Africa.
However, despite the fact that Yoruba people have a rich cultural heritage and virtues of integrity, it is disheartening that the virtue of Omoluabi which the Yorubas were known for is fast eroding, coupled with the decline of Yoruba language and values in present-day elitist society. The fear is rife that the Yoruba identity is going into extinction as a result of obsession for western language and culture.
Thus worried by the near extinction of Yoruba language and the fall in the value system, a Yoruba socio-cultural group, the Elegbeje Ede, has decided on an innovation, Egbeje Ede, as a new educational tool to complement the academic curriculum for the Yoruba language in South-West states of Nigeria, and by extension, states where the Yoruba language is being taught as a subject so that the language would be protected and promoted starting with pupils in elementary schools.
Egbeje Ede is a new innovative socio-cultural Yoruba educational invention, created to enhance and promote the Yoruba language at schools through recreative learning methodology. It is also an educational game board that serves as a classroom teaching aid to teach pupils the Yoruba language at schools via recreation and interaction. Its features include Alphabet Shelf, Yoruba Alphabet Tiles, Calabash, Cowries, Beads, Aroba card, Imo Card, Irinajo Afe Cards, Ayeye Odun Card and Agbegbe Cards.
Speaking on behalf of the group, Mr Taiwo Temidayo, said the invention was borne out of the need to checkmate the decline of Yoruba language as many people no longer speak it which happened to be the identity of the Yoruba race all over the world.
He added that the objective of promoting the Yoruba language was to ensure that it helps to sustain Yoruba cultural heritage.
He said, “We discovered that the Yoruba language is being neglected and going into extinction and we cannot afford to watch and see our value, our heritage going into extinction. So that is what gave us the impetus that we need to do something to promote the Yoruba language by endorsing it to sustain our identity.
“This project took us five years to carry out research into the reason why children no longer have interest in speaking the Yoruba language. We found out that students learn fast through sporting activities. We specifically designed the board as a way of promoting culture and a source of empowering people. Our goal is to see a prosperous Western region and project our culture across the South-West region.
“We want to use it as cultural sports to inculcate the speaking of Yoruba language and moral values in our youth in Yorubaland. This will be a plus for governments across the South-West states as no administration has ever done this before. The beauty of this project is that we are the first group that would invent this kind of project in the whole of Nigeria.
“The Yoruba language issue is something that concerns all of us, Yoruba descendants as we need to promote what is ours. Our aim is to see how this initiative will become a household item, how it will get into the curriculum of governments in the South-West states to promote the Yoruba language and also to serve as a catalyst to create jobs for people of Oyo State. It is also an empowerment initiative to empower the youths through manufacturing, sports and entertainment across the South-West region.”
While playing host to those behind Egbeje Ede project in his office, the Special Adviser to the Oyo State Governor on Culture and Tourism, Hon. Akeem Ademola Ige, described the initiative as a welcome development, stressing that it is a thing of joy that people are being awakened from their slumber to use natural talents to develop culture and develop tourism heritage in Oyo State and by extension, South-West states.
According to him, this is part of what the state government has been craving for, lamenting that It has been a long that our cultural value is being eroded while the government is thinking of how to revive it.
“I’m happy that the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi, the Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi, the Olubadan of Ibadanland, Oba Saliu Akanmu Adetunji and the Aare Ona Kakanfo of Yorubaland, Iba Gani Adams, have shown interest in this project. These are people who placed a high premium on our cultural heritage and are doing everything to ensure that our culture does not go into extinction.
“It is a pity that religion is taking away our culture from us and we know that there is a clear difference between culture and religion. Lack of promotion of our culture is also causing insecurity in the South-West region. There are some things that have to do with our culture that is now seen as taboo because of religion.
“We will work together to see how we can use this initiative to promote our culture. We have to start from the grassroots. Government has a role to play to inculcate this into the school curriculum right from the primary school level; traditional rulers also have roles to play to create awareness to the people in the community.
“I salute your brain for coming up with this brilliant initiative. Some people discovered Ludo and Draught games which are being played all over the world. The same talent they used is the one you used to come up with this Egbeje Ede initiative. When we are talking about Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc. it is the same brain they used to create them.
“I believe that the task to promote the Yoruba language is the responsibility of all descendants of Oduduwa both in Nigeria and abroad. We should therefore join hands to make the Yoruba language the cynosure of all languages around the world,” Ige said.