Why our reading culture is dying
Public libraries where books are kept, as reserves for study and nerve centres of every knowledgedriven strives are not adequately funded or not stocked with suitable and modern reading materials that will positively impact on the lives of the citizens.
Many public affairs analysts and educationists are pointing accusing fingers, unrelentingly, at poverty, corruption, poor reading environment, lack of reading books and paying attention to frivolities; and dearth of libraries as serious impediments to the formation of reading culture in our clime. Of course, each is a devil in its own right; and contributes immensely, in one way or the other, to the expiration of reading culture in this part of the world.
Unfortunately, when one takes poverty as an agent, for instance, teeming families are living below poverty line. Many a family head are struggling day and night to feed their households, much less to cater for the educational needs of their wards. This must have been, by some means, if people in the households are attending school at all. At every point, corruption, whether at grand scale or small scale, is mentioned, what comes to mind are politicians and government officials. The truth indeed is that corruption has eaten deep into Nigeria’s fabric. And because of that, the education sector is not properly funded. Many schools have very few teachers and most of them are unqualified. Some learning environments are derelict buildings of some sorts and many classes take place under shades or trees in the open, thus subjecting the poor pupils to the danger of the elements.
Reading may be introduced to the learners late. It may likely be used only within the four walls of classrooms or at most within the school premises. Public libraries where books are kept, as reserves for study and nerve centres of every knowledge-driven strives are not adequately funded or not stocked with suitable and modern reading materials that will positively impact on the lives of the citizens.
Findings have it that in many public schools there are no functional libraries.
However, whenever reading enthusiasts pass by a dying library, whether a school’s or public library, they blame government for refusing to either stock it with needed materials or for its nonchalant attitude towards it. When one asks the teachers why the libraries in their schools are degenerating, they advertently pass the buck onto the government, but the truth is that there are some people who are determined to deprive these schools of necessary books. Sometime last year, I organized an in-house debate for a family I gave lesson to. The prizes for the first and second positions were two carefully selected texts - Mary Shelley’s celebrated novel, Frankenstein and Robert Louis Stevenson’s timeless novel Treasure Island. My intention was to kill two birds with one stone: to incentivize the children on one hand and on the other, to introduce them to the pleasure of reading. This was what I did.
On arrival at a stall in a market, whose owner deals in books, something shook me to my marrow. Of course, I got the simplified version of the texts I was looking for. But flipping through the pages, I discovered on each page one catchy phrase written boldly “not for sale”. This was flanked by FGN-UBE 2013/2014. I told him the books were not for sale, pointing at the affirmation. His words were the opposite: “Here, they are for sale that is why you see them here”. He even asked me to take a look at other bookshops.
I then asked an examination officer of a school why there is this disturbing practice, he told me that government provides schools with reading texts and his school is one of the beneficiaries, but that the books disappear just like that without traces. He told me of a stock supplied lately. Some of the texts are; Mnguember Vicky Sylvester’s Song Shadow, Adamu Kyuka Usman’s Hope in Anarchy, and Mariam Ba’s So Long a Letter, etc, yet the students cannot read them. How can they when someone is shamelessly selling off the books?
From all indications, those books are sold, in person or by proxy, by some persons charged with the responsibility of delivering them to the students. And nobody, perhaps, seems to be offended by this act.
The saddest part of all this is the indifference shown or the absence of emboldened mind to challenge this unsteady conduct that will one day consume us all. But, as Jane Austen would say, if we do not have hearts, we have eyes; and they give us torment enough.