Once upon a time, reading culture was the order of the day for Nigerian youths, with shelves at home filled with books. However, the social media seems to be relegating it to the background. This, notwithstanding, advocates and campaigners who are seeking a return of the good old culture of reading are not relenting as Njoku Chibuike reveals.
Many avid lovers and readers of books have fond memories of the past. They remember the period when reading was the prized asset of every Nigerian youth. At secondary and university level, students competed over the number of literature books read.
Literary and debating societies as well as other book-learning activities were, frequently, organised by the relevant bodies to stimulate students’ interests in literature. But, suddenly, everything nosedived. The situation became so bad that a visit to any National library is like taking a walk into a museum.
In an effort to bringing young people back to the forgotten path of reading and in the process, discovering budding talents, to continue with creative writing, necessitated former President Goodluck Jonathan to launch the Bring Back the Book (BBB) project, and even when many Nigerians were happy thinking that it is an initiative that could revive the reading culture, nothing came out it.
Akindele Omotosho, senior lecturer in the Department of Mass Communication, Yaba College of Technology (YABATECH) lays the blame for students’ non-interest in reading books today on the growth of the internet, Facebook and other forms of social media, which, he said, had taken over full control of the interest of youths.
He also cited lack of qualified teachers, poor infrastructure, poor remuneration for teachers, non-chalance of government to education as reasons for the decline of reading culture.
“The level of standard or quality of education will continue to diminish in a society where some people, who are “half-baked”, are employed nowadays, as teachers; compared with those days, when we had teachers that were well read and qualified. They got the job because they have connections and need to survive in the teaching profession”, Omotosho said.
Omotosho, while proferring a way out, told Daily Times
that parents should encourage their children to return back to reading culture.
Michael Omisore, a native of Ife, Osun State, who had written several books, including his recent, Writing Masterpieces, is one man whose daily activities revolve around books. Omisore described the quality of books and publications in the country today as awful.
“We don’t have so many bookshops stocking good materials, which is one of the major problems causing the low reading culture in our society. “Worse still, check the few leading bookshops around, you don’t find so many books by Nigerian authors and publishers. No offense meant by the bookshop owners, it only shows that Nigerian authors and publishers need to up their game. It means your book can’t just be accepted, unless you have done your homework well with some level of good writing, graphical representation and packaging”, he added.
Omisore, told Daily Times that the problem started with the leaders, especially, the military, due to their negative attitude to books and scholarship. Yet, according to him, nothing is like a good book, because books are fundamental to knowledge and that is why he is campaigning that youth, especially, student’s return to regular reading.
He believes that it is only through regular reading that human beings can acquire more knowledge and be successful. Citing many Nigerians who had brought global acclaim to the country though their works, he mentioned the late Chinua Achebe, with his classical Things Fall Apart, that explores the pre-colonial Nigeria and the conflict that came with colonialism and Prof. Wole Soyinka, the first African and Nigerian Nobel Laureate and many others as some of the writers that have done the country proud.
He, however, urged youths to stop blaming the bad economy for their problems, adding that even if the economy, eventually, improves, if more writers give due diligence to their writing, people would still be behind generally in reading and learning. “With bad quality writing, an average reader will have problems with assimilation which will, eventually, lead to a disconnect with reading.”
Adedayo Adeosun , also of YABATECH, advised youths to read deeply and widely, and engage in debate if they want to make a good future. He decried the decay and deteriorating standard of education, particularly, in Nigerian universities. He, equally, blamed the dying reading culture on unqualified teachers.
“Many of the lecturers are half-baked. I am sorry; I don’t want to give you instance or mention names. They may have good intentions, but, they focus on the money rather than the work”, he said.
In the view of Agbato Oluwaseun, an ND1 student of YABATCH: “Many students lack proper time management. There is a time for everything, time for studying and time for playing. And that is the problem.”
He added that “Parents should encourage their children, right from the basics, to be going to the library and ensure that they are reading/studying their books. They should not limit their responsibilities to buying books alone, because it is one thing to buy a book, it’s another to read them. You can buy a book because you have the money, but how available are you to mentor your child to be able to read?”
However, Daily Times search discovers that a revolution is quietly taking place for book lovers in Nigeria as Africa’s biggest culture picnic often dubbed Lagos Book and Art Festival (LABAF) an art festival with a heavy book content is taking the bull by the horns. It holds every year with the aim to bring people back to the forgotten path of reading and to commit Nigerians to the reading culture. It is an international event with participants drawn from among scholars, writers, artists and journalists from all over the world. The LABAF is an advocacy idea aimed at promoting the idea of people reading books, gaining knowledge, freeing themselves from ignorance.
The festival holds workshops for teenagers; panel discussions on contents of selected books; cross cultural exchange between Nigerian writers and others from across the world; book exhibitions and sales by publishers, book sellers, embassies, art and craft sales and art exhibition also feature in the event.
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