"If you want to hide something from a black man, place it inside a book", so goes the saying. Many Nigerians would consider this saying, though annoyingly patronizing, to be apt.
When last did you read a complete book, novel or article? Were you compelled, persuaded or you did it out of curiosity?
It is pathetic that the reading culture in Nigeria has declined over the years. Many people, including students, do not have interest to read textbooks, novels, other materials. Perhaps, this is what has worsened the situation in Nigeria's educational system in the country.
Recall that recently, the West African Examinations Council (WAEC) and the National Examinations Council (NECO) decried the poor performance of students in their senior school certificate examinations. One can attribute these to the poor reading habit of students today. Many of them engage their time in social media such as Facebook, and in parties. It is said that work without play makes jack a dull boy. Yes, but when jack plays without work, what would become of him?
Poor reading culture amongst students leads to exam malpractice. Little wonder only few schools today still have social organisation like the press clubs, reading clubs, drama clubs etc.
Another reason for the poor reading culture in Nigeria today is the absence of sufficient libraries and, where these do exist, are ill-equipped.
The benefits of a robust reading culture are many.
It brings about development the reader, the community and the society at large. Development here does not only entail the construction of roads, magnificent structures, etc, but the building of the mental attitude of the people; it strengthens the foundation of education. Through reading, we are educated about many things in our field of discipline, social life, etc. Most of our cultural norms and values are also scribbled in black and white; reading will therefore make us to understand more about Nigeria, Africa and the world at large.
Good reading culture keeps us informed and abreast of the current trend in our society. It is said that the world today is a global village. We get to know about what is happening in other places through our daily interaction with the newspapers and magazines including other media. If you are not an avid reader, you may not be current about what is happening in our society today.
We may not be able to mention all the benefits of reading. But the issue is that despite its importance, our reading culture continues to decline day by day. What is the way forward?
First, libraries should be established from the grassroots. There should not just be national and state libraries (though some are ill-equipped) at the state headquarters, but their branches should either be established all local governments of the federation, or there should be a provision to mandate each local government to establish a well-equipped one.
Philanthropists should be encouraged to partner with government to establish libraries at the grassroots or voluntarily doing them. We have seen many beer parlous, hotels, etc, built by these well meaning Nigerians. They could do us a lot of goods by using the same spirit to build libraries not only for students but the general public.
Existing libraries and those to be built needs to be equipped adequately: raising a library without books is like building a hospital without drugs, syringes and needles. Other members of the society can donate books to help stock the libraries.
Teachers should encourage students to read. At secondary school levels, this may be achieved through assignments, reviving the tradition of reading clubs, press clubs, drama clubs etc. Another way teachers can also encourage students to read is by avoiding the attitude of showing students answers during examination. This will make them to make efforts to read.
Students should minimize the habit of burying themselves in social media to the detriment of their studies.
Parents, on their part, should ensure that their children read their books every day. It is said that "charity begins at home", so they need to inculcate reading habit in their children right when they are still young.
It is only by doing these and more that it would be possible to disprove that annoying saying about the black man. READ!
Wubon studies mass communications at Taraba State University, Jalingo