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Nigeria needs to recognise worth, dignity of girl child – Anya

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Professor Uju Anya is a linguist and university professor in the field of language learning and teaching in the United States of America. In this interview with the IJEOMA EKWOWUSI, she talks of her family background, the girl child education in Nigeria and her current projects, amongst others. Excerpts:

YOU are a scholar, but tell us more on what propelled you to achieve this feat. May we know some of your track records?

  I’m a scholar, because I come from very learned and academically high achieving people. So there was always an expectation that school is something we do well. Both my parents and my maternal grandfather were university educated and had professional careers.

I was the first (that I’m aware of) in my family who chose research and teaching at the university level, simply because I love school so much. I never wanted to leave. So, I made a career in the academy. I’m not sure exactly what you mean by track records, but I earned two advanced degrees (MA and PhD), have published a successful and very well cited book, along with multiple journal articles.

 I currently hold an associate professorship at a world renowned university in the U.S., and I’m a highly sought after speaker and conference keynote. I’m also a popular public intellectual best known for my accessible and relatable way of engaging people on Twitter in different kinds of thoughtful discussions and explorations of ideas in language studies, social criticism, cultural analysis, (mostly U.S.) politics, and LGBTQ issues.

  What informed your writing of the book, ‘Racialized Identities in Second Language Learning: Speaking Blackness in Brazil’?

  I wrote it after conducting a research project on the experiences of African American students learning the Portuguese language in Brazil. It was an exploration of language learning as personal transformation and how people learn to communicate their different selves and social identities in a new linguistic and cultural context. I do this work as principal focus in my research where I study language learning processes and experiences and blackness in multilingualism.

  How do you find yourself as a black African and a Nigerian woman in Diaspora?

  I’m not sure how to answer this, because I consider myself African-Caribbean-American, with the US being the strongest part of my identity. I’m not a Nigerian in the diaspora. I’m more like an American with strong Nigerian roots.

That being said, I’m very proud of my blackness, and the fact that it has been shaped by so many different cultural and language experiences. It’s a multicultural and multinational blackness, which cannot be reduced to any of its individual components, but keeps being nurtured and informed by its expansiveness.

The U.S. is a difficult place to live as a black person born here or anywhere else, but I can’t really imagine myself living anywhere else. Brazil was a strong contender for a while, but no longer a consideration for a permanent home, because their problems with racism and corruption (which the US also has plenty) have grown to some wild levels.

Has enough been done to the girl- child education in Nigeria?

  Absolutely not! Nigeria has such a long way to go in, first of all, recognising the human value, worth, and dignity of the girl child, before we even consider how far the country has come in educating her.

  What do you have in front burner? What new projects are you currently working on?

  I’m currently working on writing and publishing two articles I have in the pipeline, plus securing grants for my research projects on collaborating with university language programs on creating and sustaining antiracist, equity-minded, and inclusive policies, practices, and materials. I’m also creating a summer institute for K-12 teacher training in doing critical and antiracist work in language studies for young learners.

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