Some parents in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) have admitted that they pay extra fees for their children to learn how to speak with British accent.
The parents, who spoke in separate interviews with News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), gave several reasons why they felt having British accent would help the children, with some regarding it as proper education. Investigations in schools around Garki, Gwarimpa, Wuse, Asokoro and Maitama in FCT revealed that the teaching of British accent had been included in the curriculum.
The classes, developed to satisfy parents, were named ‘Phonics’, ‘Elocution’, ‘Enunciation’ and ‘Diction. These classes were most times separated from the normal English and Literature lessons commonly found in schools and were allocated special times in the timetable. Classes in the schools go for cumulative prices between N10,000 and N25,000 per term, added to the standard school fees.
Some schools visited by NAN said such classes were optional but pressure from some parents was gradually making it popular.
According to some parents, having their children speak in British accent gives them a feeling that they are receiving proper formal education; unlike the standard they (parents) had in their time. They said since English originated from Britain, it was important that children learned to speak it in the proper accent, adding that it would help the children to relate better with people abroad. Mrs Christina Ayuba, a businesswoman with four children said she was glad that her children were being taught British accent in school. She said although she did not fully understand the way the children speak lately, she was proud that they speak that way, as it made her feel like she was giving them the best education.
“I feel the pride of a parent when my children go to Church and people envy the way they speak smartly, at least I won’t be bothered if they go abroad.
“They will be able to interact with white people and understand them when they talk. It is something every parent should pay for to improve the children’s English language.” Another parent, Mr Oyietari Oboro, an engineer with two children told NAN that he hired a tutor to teach his children the accent at home; in addition to lessons they receive in school. He added that it was a necessary skill as the world was going global and people needed to be armed with the right conversational skills; noting that British accent had become an added advantage. “We did not have these kind of lessons growing up and it affected us. When you hear people speaking with British accent, you start to feel your grammar isn’t correct. “We don’t want our children to suffer these things and so these lessons are important as part of equipping them for the future.
“Most of us do not want our children to stay in this country for long and also do not want them to feel left out when they go abroad.”
The practice led to a surge in private ‘diction’ tutors who teach children in their homes or act as resource persons to schools. Some of the tutors told NAN that they charge between N15,000 and N30,000 per month, depending on the intensity of the lessons. Mr Charles Ajobi, a tutor, said he started the business in 2017 after a friend told him that his British accent could fetch him money.
He works as a private tutor in homes and also acts as resource person in schools, after interaction with other tutors led him to develop a complete course curriculum. He said “parents pay a lot and teaching this accent is the thriving business in Abuja now. The craze is very high and it is almost like competition. “Some of these children have poor grammatical structure and you have to work on that before you start to teach the accent properly,” Ajobi added.
However, some other parents were against the teaching of British accent to children; saying it was another form of neo-colonialism and now a status thing among parents. They insisted that learning proper grammar was essential “and not English flavours.” Mrs Vera Alikan, a mother of two, said she was contented with proper English taught to her children and would not force them to take on any accent.
She added that it was preferable for children to learn foreign languages rather than accent. “My children are normal and speak good English without an accent and I am okay with it. The situation is alarming as parents are competing with it, even in Churches.
“You hear some parents bragging that their children can speak in British accent, to them, education is complete. “It just shows that our mentality is still very low in this part of the world. I see it as inferiority complex.”
Mrs Abiola Kayode-Apampa, an Educationist with over 20 years experience and a school administrator, said the trend had heightened as parents continued to pressurise schools on British accent lessons. She said the trend was creating more room for inferiority complex among children and parents who could not afford the extra charge. She said
“parents encourage the teaching of British accent and most schools have to take this into consideration so as to maintain the relationship. “However, teaching should be focused on imbibing the right grammatical structure so the students can speak well. “Most schools are trying to copy and pander to pressure, without focusing on impacting real knowledge that the children can become better with,” Kayode-Apampa said. She added that “an accent could be cool but it was not a yardstick for grading the intelligence of a child as erroneously done today by parents and schools.” Kayode-Apampa hoped that educational priorities should be set straight “so that things like accent and ‘cosmetic teaching’ do not take over proper academics.”