Hammed Shittu writes on the effort by the wife of Kwara State Governor Mrs Omolewa Ahmed to revive the dying culture among the young one through competitions and forms of rewards.
To the people of Kwara state, it is yet another giant stride at complementing the ongoing efforts of the present administration in its education reforms. The intent is to ensure that the literacy level of the people, especially among the school children improves.
It is on this premise that, a non-governmental organization, LEAH Charity Foundation, a pet project of the wife of the state governor, Mrs. Omolewa Ahmed was established upon assumption of office of the present administration in the state so as to touch lives of the less privileged people in the society and also to ensure a new lease of life for many others through various kinds of assistance.
However, LEAH's horizon was further broadened upon its collaboration with other stakeholders with more opportunities which has provided it with more opportunities to add values to the lives of the people in what was termed the SHE-Model; an acronym for social welfare, health and education, a multi dimensional action plan geared towards uplifting the socio-well being of the populace of the state and Nigeria in general.
In line with its passion in education, Leah Charity Foundation decided to put in place a reading culture initiative aimed at improving the educational development of young people in Kwara State. The foundation recently organized a reading culture competition among the schools in the 16 local government councils so as to encourage them to be more versatile in English and also improve their reading ability for the socio economic growth of the state.
The decision to take this initiative was not far -fetched as the children constitute a sizeable proportion of the nation's population hence the need to pay adequate attention to their problems and needs, especially if societal vices such as juvenile delinquency, cultism, prostitution, drug abuse, cyber crimes, truancy among others are to be eliminated from the society through reading culture among the school pupils.
It would be noted that, the four skills of English language are reading, speaking, listening and writing. Reading is a critical in the lives of the learners and students must learn to read well in order to make headway in their academic pursuits.
It was this aforementioned issues that gingered the LEAH Charity Foundation to design the initiative of reading culture tagged "LEAH Reading Club 2012", aimed at encouraging schools pupils to imbibe the habit of reading among themselves in order to enhance their academic excellence and thus assisting them to achieve their goals in their various chosen academic career in life.
The event which took place at the Sapati International school, Ilorin was also attended by over 200 students in 64 secondary schools in the state. The students would be competing among themselves on reading habit and those that excel will be given awards and other laurels so as to motivate them for future participation in such event.
Declaring the five-day event open in Ilorin, the state Deputy Governor, Elder Peter Kishra fingered dwindling reading culture as one of the factors responsible for rampant cases of examination malpractices in Nigeria.
Kishra said, "this is why the ugly menace called examination malpractice is still with us today. It can only be tackled when students imbibe the culture of reading." The deputy governor who was represented by the Commissioner for Education and Human Capital Development, Alhaji Saka Onimago explained that the effort was in tandem with the state government's reform agenda.
"Today, we are here to take another giant stride in our educational development by establishing clubs in all junior secondary schools in the state. About 202 students are here gathered to participate in the programme as reading ambassadors of their colleagues in all the sixteen local government areas of the state.
This is to revive reading culture in our schools. It is a great challenge to all of us as stakeholders in education to ensure the success of what is starting from here. It must be sustained so that this great work will not be in vain."
In a remark, the Founding Trustee of the Leah Charity Foundation and wife of Governor AbdulFatah Ahmed, Omolewa said the schools were selected after a thorough and competitive process.
She said that the "participating schools will become the first set of ambassadors for the foundation's determination to ensure that reading becomes an important part of the school live of our children. The process for the event started few months ago when the foundation embarked on the mission of selecting the first crop of schools to participate in this camp. It is our plan that these schools will ultimately become the pioneering schools with the Leah Reading Club which we intend to set up.
"During this one week exercise, participants are going to be exposed to the importance of reading and the skills that are necessary for reading. The reading clinic, which they will participate in, will focus on imparting basic reading skills, how to read and understand as well as the importance of reading as a life-long skill on the children. The children will also be mentored by carefully selected people who have good stories to tell about how reading has impacted on their lives.
"Although, Leah really desired to start this camp with more schools than we have today, the non-governmental organisation is constrained by resources, hence this modest take-off, which we hopefully will be building on in the very near future.
"To achieve this, we would like to appeal to the state government, corporate organisations and public spirited citizens of our dear state to kindly come forward to collaborate with us in our desire to prepare our children for the challenges of the constant change which our world grapples with.
"I charge each of the participants to invest the whole of their beings into this training. You must realise that the opportunity, which you are lucky to have is the same that hundreds of other children wanted but did not get."
By and large, with this event organised by the wife of the state governor, Mrs. Omolewa Ahmed, if it can be sustained, there would be a greater improvement in the academic development and thus prepare school students for a better tomorrow.