BY DAYO ADESULU
Minister of Education, Professor Ruqayyatu Rufai has called for the establishment of local libraries and reading centres in wards and local government areas so that people can easily access reading materials, adding that this could be achieved by bringing all education stakeholders together towards this goal.
”We must establish local libraries and reading centres in wards and local government areas, so that people can easily access reading materials.”
Speaking at the UBA Foundation Initiative, titled: Read Africa Project 2012, a programme designed to bring back the reading culture in Nigerian youths, Prof. Ruqayyatu Rufai, represented by Mrs Ibukun Oyewole said funding of education cannot be borne by government alone, urging the private sector to come and assist in funding the sector.
The Minister of Education who announced the commencement of “Read Africa Project” in Lagos, reiterated that government has redesigned the literacy education curriculum to make reading of books compulsory in schools, adding that it is now mandatory for schools to be equipped and enriched with varieties of reading materials that are not only textbooks.
”Government has redesigned the literacy education curriculum to make reading of books compulsory in schools. It is now mandatory for schools to be equipped and enriched with varieties of reading materials that are not only textbooks.”
Rufai said that good reading skills lead students to become successful learners, adding, “students learn from written materials such as textbooks, handouts, posters and online publications.”
According to Rufai, students read for a variety of aesthetic and academic purposes which include enjoyment and relaxation; to get information; to develop skills; to follow directions; to develop an understanding of ourselves and of the world.
The Minister of Education who noted that reading encourages people to become successful lifelong learners said, “reading stimulates an individual to be creative and innovative.”
She explained that innovation results from the combination of ideas and concepts, saying that the more we read, the more ideas and concepts come to mind. Making allusion to Japan, Rufai pointed out that the high level of reading has made her one of the most innovative and developed nations in the world.
”Reading can promote tolerance and peace; the more we read, the more reflections we make, and the more understanding we have about other people’s customs, traditions, religions, beliefs and ethnicity,” she said.
She stated that reading in our country has merely been promoted on television advertisements, posters, banners or brochures stressing that we need more effective and concrete ways to carry out this programme.
Also speaking, Professor Ngugi wa Thiong’o, author of Weep Not Child, who flew in from America to challenge Nigerian students on the importance of bringing back our reading culture said, reading is an integral part of our base in Africa adding: “The clothe, properties and dollars you possess can be taking away from you, but what you have in mind cannot be taking away from you.”
According to him, imagination and reading are very important to everyone, noting that imagination on its own cannot survive except it is nourished through reading of books. “The more we read, the more we nourish our imagination, the less we read, the more we shrink our imagination,” he said.
The playwright who urged our youths to emulate Wole Soyinka and Chinue Achibe as writers who played major role in building Africa reading culture said that Nigerian writers are important to the Africa continent.
Thiong’o, who presently lectures in America, urged Africans not to allow their language to be eroded or replaced by English Language reiterating that our African languages are our base, arguing that languages are keys to knowledge.
His words: “If you speak other languages in the world but can’t speak indigenous language, it is enslavery. Also, If you can speak your language along side other languages, it is an empowerment.” When the professor visited Baptist Academy school, he told the students that the more they know, they more confident, they become.
In her welcome address, the Managing Director of UBA “Read Africa Foundation,” Mrs. Ijeoma Azor said the purpose of the foundation is to revamped the reading culture of our youths, adding that a copy of ‘Weep not Child’ will be given to every student in the 19 African countries where UBA has reached.
She urged stakeholders to help get youths read good books. “Get a child to read the book always,” she said.