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.

Sunday Trust - - VIEW POINT - By Ab­dulYas­sar Ab­dulHamid Ab­dulhamid wrote this piece from Kano

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.

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