Challenging But Feasible-Ngozi Noblin on Igbo Classes in American Varsities

By Ajong Mbapndah L

Noblin Ngozi
Noblin Ngozi

For Ngozi Noblin, there is no turning back in her mission to make Universities across the US teach the Igbo Language. Though things have started timidly at the Community College of Baltimore County, Ngozi, Founder and President of the Amaka Cultural Institute says she believes firmly in the wisdom of her initiative and will stay the course.

“This is my culture-my identity, my origin. I am ready to bear the burden that comes with this journey,” Ngozi Noblin, who doubles as Ms Igbo America says .Initially the worry was whether we will have enough teachers for the Igbo Language Program, but today, our problem is how to drive up enrollment, says Ngozi Noblin.PAV caught up with Ms Ngozi Noblin who also serves as Adjunct Professor at the Community College of Baltimore to discuss perspectives on the Igbo Language Program.

On the Igbo Language Classes in American Colleges

As Founder and President of the Igbo Amaka Cultural Institute, I started working on a vision of implementing Igbo language course in America colleges after finding out that only three Universities in the US teach the Igbo language.

Recently Igbo language has gotten the attention it deserves, although I feel like it deserves more. Parents are getting a wakeup call on the importance of educating their children on the usage of Igbo language in their day to day activities/conversation; the youths are making great efforts to learn the language as well, and I appreciate all the youths that’s taking it upon themselves to learn their native language and making efforts of putting what they have learnt into practice.

Ever since I started this journey, some colleges have been welcoming, while some loved the idea, however asked me to submit my proposal again by next year or few years to come. This is because some of the colleges have a policy of implementing foreign languages within 3 to 5 years interval while some said that the Department of World Languages & Cultures at the college has no fund to sponsor the class at the moment, but will be considering the class if I submit my proposal by next year or so. In all I’m so grateful to all the colleges that have approved Igbo language as a course in their programs and those that will be doing so in no distance time.

How have things gone with the Colleges/Universities that approved Igbo language as one of the courses in their program?

When I was working on implementing Igbo language & Culture in America Colleges, I was scared about one thing- I was scared there will be great interest from college students and professionals especially of the Igbo descents, but there might not be instructors to teach the course in these colleges. But at this moment I tell you the reverse is the case. Upon establishing this course in some America colleges that approved the course it has been difficult keeping the course on track because of low response from students and professionals, especially of Igbo descents.

It’s a bit frustrating, when a school creates a schedule for a semester, and after several promotions and advertisements only 2  persons will sign up for a class, or at worse no one will sign up for the course. There have been few situations, whereby some of the colleges have called my attention that they might close the course/program if they keep getting weak response. When situations like this comes up, I try to convince the college administration that the Igbo communities are happy about this development and definitely will respond in no distance time. I had severally meetings with the coordinator of the programs in different colleges, at this meetings I told them that it’s only a matter of time; things of this nature needs some patience, constant promotion and advertisements of the course. For instance, Community College of Baltimore County was supposed to start the first Igbo class October 2016, but only one student registered at that time; the Department of World Languages & Cultures contacted me telling me they would cancel the program. I pleaded with them to move it to spring 2017 to enable both my organization and the school to promote the class. The school accepted to move the class to spring 2017 giving us 3 months to promote the class, and guess what this time we had 9 students who registered for the class. The class ran successfully for 11 weeks; the students learnt so much and the students who passed the class were awarded a certificate of completion, which is valid anywhere around the globe.

Besides Publicity, what else do you think could be a factor for the “Low response from the students, especially for the Igbo descent?”

Besides publicity, sometimes interest could be a huge factor. Like I mentioned earlier, I’m glad that the American youths of Igbo descents are showing interest in learning their native language; however, I think the interest and commitment rate is very low. For instance, the Igbo class was supposed to start in Morgan State University in April 2017, but again the class got cancelled because no student registered for it. When I reached out to the coordinator of the program at Morgan State to find out how many students registered for the class. She told me that few students reached out to her indicating their interest in taking the class, but none of them registered or enrolled in the class. Currently, I’m working with her to move the class to fall 2017 to enable us promote the class more than we did and hope that the “few students” who called her earlier, will register this time.

I’m so worried because the low response from the Igbo descents led to some Universities, such as Howard University to shut down the Igbo class years back. I’m working so hard to convenience the administration of these colleges that once had the class, that there will be a positive attitude/response from their students and others who reside within the college neighborhood if the class is given another chance to exist in their college once again.

In the face of such challenges, what next?  

This is my culture-my identity, my origin. I am ready to bear the burden that comes with this journey.  {Paused and a bit emotional} I have made up my mind to work tirelessly until the Igbo class is up and running in America colleges. Although, it might take time, but I believe that with a great publicity from the Igbo communities who are aware of the class and also from the colleges, there will be a great interest from the students and professionals to enroll in the class.

Like I said earlier, Community College of Baltimore County in Baltimore Maryland had a successful spring semester with the enrollment of 9 students. 7 out of these students graduated and were awarded a certificate of completion from the college.

Currently, I’m working so hard in terms of publicity; promoting the Igbo class in the Igbo communities and Igbo organizations will help prompt the Igbo decents to enroll in the class. Also this would encourage their parents to share the class information with their children.

Furthermore, the colleges awards either credits or certificate after a successful completion of the course by the students in order to encourage the students to complete the course once they are enrolled in the course.

I’m also reaching out to the coordinators and instructors at the Universities that previously teaches Igbo language, and together I believe we will make a way and make things easier, so students (Igbo descents and non-Igbo descents) will be happy to enroll in the class, thereby prolonging the existence of the Igbo language & Culture class at the Universities, which in turn will contribute to the longevity of Igbo language usage in the US. I also encourage students that don’t have Igbo language class at their various colleges, to reach out to me, so I could help them establish the course at their various colleges. I believe working together could make us achieve so much in life.

What other mission does your Organization the Igbo Amaka Cultural Institute have besides promoting Igbo Language and Culture across U.S Universities and Colleges?

The Organization’s objective is to “Foster and Sustain Igbo Language & Culture,” which is actually the motto of the Organization. With this being said, the Organization does so much in terms of sustaining the Igbo language & culture. The Organization organizes Igbo classes during summertime for Beginners & Advance classes, which starts in June and ends in July. We also run distance learning classes, for students who prefer online classes. We also organize Cultural Day, whereby most of the students display the Igbo traditions using Igbo language via dance, drama etc. We recently started “Igbos’ got Talent,” which will be held for the first time on June 16th 2017 @ Baltimore Maryland, and we hope the project grows from then.  Furthermore, the Organization organizes cooking workshop, which focuses on educating the Igbo descents born and raised in the US how to make the Igbo cuisine. I run a food business, so with the help of so many great cooks I know we will be able to educate the youths on how to make the Igbo cuisines. The Organization also organizes medical mission trips to Nigeria with more focus on the eastern part of Nigeria, we hope to partner with some medical- focused organizations both here in the US and Nigeria in this sector of the Organization.  The Organization has come to STAY, so as time goes on, the administration will establish great innovations.

What the Organization currently needs- is more Publicity and Fund to run the affairs of the Organization, but I strongly believe things will come together very soon!…I’m always positive about life, so I know God will make ways for this Organization.

All the best with the vision, and thanks for sharing developments with us

Thank for interviewing me!!





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