BACK in the days of our fathers, reading was part and parcel of the learned such that those who were not well educated strive to go to college in order to acquire more knowledge. Reading then was bedrock of greatness in every individual, regardless of age and gender. It is alarming how this practice, which used to be widespread among Nigerian students, youths and even adults, is fast eroding in our society – at a jet speed.
Reading stimulates imagination, encourages quick learning, curiosity and expands horizons. It also enhances acquisition of skills for handling complex ideas or issues and it is the mother of strategic planning. Every piece of write-up is the manifestation of experience garnered by a writer over time. As important as education is, it hurts to know that the sharp decline in our reading culture is attributed to a number of factors in the society.
No thanks to the advent of the new media that shifted the paradigm, discouraging young ones and even adults from reading for knowledge. People have devoted more time chatting, uploading photos and commenting on irrelevant posts on the social media than seeking for materials that will enhance their knowledge. It is worse that people hardly read serious articles online to make comments
A glance at the present day society and there will be no doubt that poverty is a great challenge to the poor reading culture in Nigeria. In a country where about 70 per cent of the population lives with less than one dollar per day, it automatically means that a larger proportion of the population cannot afford the basic educational foundation that will enable them read and write. Such people are more interested in what to eat rather than seeking materials to read and get knowledge.
A good learning environment calls for quiet study centre. Most of our schools are associated with noisy environment and full of distractions that are hindrances to the smooth flow of learning and reading to understand. In the past, schools/learning centres were built in isolated places or better still, they were built in the outskirts of the town, which are usually serene. But the reverse is the case today as schools are mostly found in the Central Business Districts (CBDs) of towns and cities. This is occasioned by the fact that school owners see the institution more as a business venture, hence the location in the CBD where it can be accessed easily.
Our reading culture needs to be revamped to awake the slumber in the educational system and this can only be achieved when all hands are on deck. Schools should inculcate library periods into their timetable and also ensure that the time table is strictly adhered to. Government should ensure that every school is equipped with a good library, even down to the nursery where children enjoy picture story books
The poor reading culture can also be attributed to the high level of illiteracy in our society, which conforms to the recent report by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), that there are 62 million illiterates in our beloved country… This statistics actually underscores the level of illiteracy in the country.
It is no gain saying that the many years of neglect of our educational institutions, especially adult literacy education have come to hunt us in the face at a time the world is becoming a global village. This is therefore a clarion call to the federal and states’ ministries of Education to declare a state of emergency in the education sector.
The fight against illiteracy is a very crucial one because of the aftermath in our society. Illiteracy is worse than any kind of oil spill hence all and sundry should rise to make it a thing of the past in the shortest possible time.
One cannot undermine that the pursuit for material fame and fortune among Nigerian youth and paying lip service to education have also contributed to the drastic fall in the reading culture. Our youth now attach undue importance to fame and wealth such that the place of reading has been relegated.
In the past, the path to greatness lies in acquiring knowledge acquired from books but as of today, that same path has become an untidy forest. Youths now prefer to venture into the lucrative world of entertainment where their intelligence quotient would hardly be tested and parents are also now encouraging children to toe this path because everyone wants to be the parent of a super star (celebrity).
As far as we know, the society is not helping matters in this regard as people now celebrate mediocrity at the expense of intellectualism. This is manifest in our quest for materialism; many Nigerians have abandoned their educational careers for the pursuit of ‘quick money’, which they believe can be faster through business, entertainment and politics.
Again, no thanks to the advent of the new media that shifted the paradigm, discouraging young ones and even adults from reading for knowledge. People have devoted more time chatting, uploading photos and commenting on irrelevant posts on the social media than seeking for materials that will enhance their knowledge. It is worse that people hardly read serious articles online to make comments. They would rather click to read posts that are associated with cleavages (in social lives) and thereafter express likeness for, comment on or share such posts. They would rather read very short and humorous pieces than to read articles that are informative and rich in knowledge.
Students have also converted their reading time to surf the internet. No wonder the result is promotion of examination malpractices, which has become a norm in our education system. This has degenerated to an extent that students and parents look out for ‘miracle’ centres where they can enroll for examinations conducted by organisations such as WASSCE, NECO and UTME.
If all these are not checked, the present and future generations in Nigeria will be at the risk of losing much to knowledge acquisition. One of the most common places where you can find knowledge is in books/articles and if we allow the ugly trend of non-reading culture, it is certain that we are at the verge of raising a mediocre generation. Of course, this will spell doom for the country because there will be a huge vacuum for technocrats who will pilot the affairs of our father land.
Reading is the supreme light-giver that opens eyes to the past and then gives an insight to the future. Reading adds quality to life, provides access to culture and cultural heritage, empowers and emancipates citizens as well as bringing people together. We need to re-integrate the reading culture in our people as the gains of a reading citizenry cannot be over emphasised. This will help to prove the white man wrong when he said, “if you want to hide something from a black man, keep it in a book.
Our reading culture needs to be revamped to awake the slumber in the educational system and this can only be achieved when all hands are on deck. Schools should inculcate library periods into their timetable and also ensure that the time table is strictly adhered to. Government should ensure that every school is equipped with a good library, even down to the nursery where children enjoy picture story books.
Government should also re-invent the readership campaign programme organised by the National Library to sensitise both young and old on the gains of cultivating a healthy reading culture. In the past, people read at leisure times by spending time in the libraries. The government should make libraries comfortable and conducive for reading thereby motivating people from all walks of life. They should reposition the libraries with internet facilities to enhance the reading culture.