MINNA, NIGER STATE: Teaching or writing in Nupe – a language spoken by a section of people in central Nigeria – is the least thing Adamu Idris Manarakis would have considered himself doing over a decade ago.
But that changed when he attended an Annual Schools Carnival of Arts and Festival of Songs or ASCAFS in Nigeria’s north-central Niger State in 2011.
At ASCAFS, he met participants who presented poems and other literary works made in the Yoruba language –the dialect of the southwestern people of Nigeria.
“I became more enthusiastic about seeing the progress of a local language,” he said.
Shortly after ASCAFS, Manarakis began to think about “how to implement the same thing in Nupe, my mother tongue.”
He began teaching Nupe in 2016 with 55 students in his physical class. A year later, he started holding online courses, and eight years later, the number of online and offline learners increased to more than 300.
Now, he leads the Indigenous Language Learning Center or ILLEC, which he founded to structure his work and save the language from extinction.
Twenty-three-year-old Zakari Isah Fujeregi is one of Manarakis’ students at the centre.
“I enrolled at ILLEC [in 2020]. [Now] I’m able to read and write in the Nupe language, and I’m now a Nupe poet, translator, and editor,” he said
Fujeregi wants to improve his knowledge and become a Nupe language teacher like Manarakis.
Manarakis believes that by teaching Nupe and raising others to do the same, he is also preserving Nupe’s cultural heritage.
“UNESCO reported that out of 7,000 languages spoken worldwide, 2,280 are in danger of extinction,” he told Prime Progress.
“UNESCO noted that the disappearance of local languages is a loss of a great part of human heritage as they do not only serve as a means of communication but also a channel by which cultures, knowledge, and traditions are preserved and transmitted between generations.”
He said about how he started ILLEC: “When I announced the commencement of an online Nupe language class, only a few supported the idea. After that, many people advised me to move the whole idea to a physical classroom.”
The virtual course runs for five months for N10,000 (about $25), while the physical version goes for half that amount and runs for 10 months.
Books in Nupe
Manarakis has written 30 books in the Nupe language.
“Frankly, the future is bright,” he said. That is what I believe because writing in indigenous languages has a more direct connection with people and their cultures than those written in the English language in Nigeria and Africa.”
The centre has published 55 books since it was founded, including First Nupe Mathematics, Nupe Grammar, Nupe Science and Technology, Nupe Novels, Nupe Biology, and Nupe Physics, among others.
However, Manarakis said inadequate funding is one of his main challenges. He also mentioned that providing learning resources for students during and after graduation is difficult.