Kaduna primary schools get a lift with mobile libraries, books
At Ake Arts and Book Festival last year, Mr. Abaji Nyam of Marine Platform had announced the company’s intention to boost reading culture among school children in parts of the North, starting with Kaduna State, by donating mobile libraries stocked with books to that effect.
While speaking on behalf of Marine Platform at the festival, Nyam had acknowledged the uneven access to educational facilities in the region, particularly books, and stated his company’s desire to bridge it.
According to him, “Because I work with an oil and gas service company, I have had the privilege of visiting and living in many Nigerian states. Without a doubt, there is unevenness in how much access children have to good books, which encourage them to imagine different futures for themselves. I’m from Kaduna State and I know that my state and others in the north of the country do not have the depth of reading culture that they should.
“A few months ago, when Marine Platforms was thinking about Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and how best to go about it, my colleague, Taofik Adegbite, bumped into Lola Shoneyin at a party and they got talking. In just a few months working with Lola, we have refined our goals. The work that Book Buzz Foundation (organisers of Ake Arts and Book Festival) does is closely aligned with our aims. We want to support children in Northern Nigeria”.
We are going to start by rolling out 100-book libraries across Northern Nigeria so that when the children have their state-stipulated reading time, they will have beautiful, colourful books to dip into and get lost.”
At Governor Malam Nasir El Rufai’s office, with some of his cabinet members present, including Commissioner for Education and Nigeria Liquified Natural Gas-sponsored The Nigerian Science Prize winner, Prof. Jonathan Nok, Nyam presented a sample of the mobile libraries with the books stocked in it.
According to Nyam, “We believe it’s a scalable model and, for us, this is not the end of the cooperation. We will work with the state government in whatever way we can. And we hope that that fire of inquisitiveness will be ignited in the children to make them better adults later in life.”
In his response, El Rufai thanked Nyam and his company, Marine Platform, and said, “I don’t know where to start but to thank you for what you are doing, for delivering on your promise. We want to revamp our libraries in Kaduna State and ensure that in every local government area there is one functioning and well equipped library with triple offering: books, electronics as well as textbooks. This is because when our students sit for national examinations, they travel long distances to take the Computer-based Test (CBT).
“Your contribution is significant and creative. We hope to adopt your model and scale it up. It is sad that young people don’t read any more; they prefer visuals and they love pictures. We have to find ways to make young people interested in reading and have access to libraries and good books. We pray God to help expand Marine Platform’s business so that you can do more for us.”
As part of El Rufai’s innovative approach of putting young people first, he has sponsored children twice to Ake Arts and Book Festival so they can be part of the ambience of writers and thinkers. “I actually sponsored children to Ake festival,” he said. “I hope we sponsor more next year to get them interested in reading and writing.”
AT LGEA Sheikh Abubakar Gumi Model Primary School, Kaduna, where Marine Platform Mobile Library initiative was flagged off, project consultant, Lola Shoneyin told the children about the good fortune that had come to them, being beneficiaries of wonderful books through the benevolence of Marine Platform. She got the children thoroughly engaged with her dramatic antics and the children responded in kind, answering all her questions.
Two pupils, Aisha Abdulwasi’u and Muhsin Adam, sampled the books by reading excerpts to the admiration of everyone present. The entire class took the books from the library shelves and leafed through them, admiring the glossy colours, photographs and texts.
Nyam told the pupils of his experience as a young reader, as a pupil and how books became windows through which he explored faraway places long before he visited them as an adult.
“One of the things I loved doing was to read and think of faraway places and want to go there,” he said. “I want you to read and go to those places you read about in books. I want you to read!”
Education Commissioner, Nok, also advised the pupils, saying, “If you want to talk like Lola, you have to read these books. I will come back next month and find out how many of you have read these books. If I’m satisfied, I will give your school computers and continue to give you more and continue to come and give you more computers.”
Mrs. El Rufai also spoke to the pupils, “I’m really so happy at what is happening. Thank you, Mr. Nyam, for what you are doing for us, and thank you, the indefatigable Lola Shoneyin, for being there for us. Children, you have to take your education seriously. It’s the only way to achieve your aim in life. What I will tell you is to read and read. Through these books you get to know many places that you haven’t visited. From your reading, I’m hoping the love of writing will be rekindled in you!”
A pupil in the class, Aisha Mohammed, appreciated the gesture and thanked Marine Platform and Shoneyin for making their school proud recipients of valuable books. She also thanked the governor’s wife for being a motivator.
Chairman, School Board Management Committee (SBMC) and Old Pupils Association (OPA), Dr. Ibrahim Umar, lauded the initiative, saying, “The idea, the concept is commendable. In this school, we have ICT, a dispensary and skills acquisition centre. We want the governor to come and demolish a mosque and a residential building that interlopers have erected close to the school. We commend Nyam for bringing this initiative to our school.”
Also, the headmistress of the school, Mrs. Larai Salamatu Salisu, described the event as a memorable one, adding, “I’m happy to witness the flag-off in my school. I promise to use the library very well to motivate the habit of reading among my pupils. Although the school already has a library, but this one will motivate them further. Now that it is brought to the classroom, it becomes easier to access and use.”
EARLIER, while inspecting the 100 mobile libraries on the lawn at Government House, Kaduna, Nyam gave insight into the project and how he hopes it would inspire other donors to also join in and make books available to indigent children, especially those in public schools that often have the challenge of learning materials like books.
According to him, “We all agree that our future depends on our children. The whole idea is not just for the children to have books, but for the books to be able to trigger off inquisitiveness, trigger off the desire to learn, trigger off the desire to explore. That is the whole benefit of this project.
“Books are very significant to children; they spark off that desire to learn and make them inquisitive. Of course, an inquisitive child is one that keeps asking all the questions. Children want to learn about other places; they want to learn about other people and the society around them.”
Although there are other initiatives Marine Platform has up its sleeves, Nyam said it was his company’s hope that the mobile library initiative would also challenge others to take a cue and offer assistance in areas of educational needs across the country.
“There are so many other things we have in mind,” he noted. “But we place a lot of emphasis on education, education being the means of liberating the minds of our people. So, apart from the young children, within the company, we have the means of training, updating and enhancing the capacity of individuals, who work with us. Like I said, the whole idea is more of liberating of minds than that of reading books. Those young engineers that we train, when they get back home, to their rural communities, those who see them would see the change in them. And the young people around them would say, ‘oh, I want to be like uncle so and so’. That is how we develop communities.
“Our honest hope is that this goes as far as it can. You are absolutely correct. I went through public school and we had books, libraries, which are no longer there for young ones these days, which is a shame, really. So, this is certainly not the end of it. We definitely hope that our model will inspire more people to do more for our community schools, where most older people studied to be what they are today.
“The model we are working on with Book Buzz Foundation is to make it a scalable project. So, the model is there and we expect more people to come together and create a bandwagon effect and donate books and more libraries. We hope development partners will come on board and lend a helping hand.”
MARINE Platform’s other goal is to encourage and empower writers from Northern Nigeria to excel in their craft. Five writers from the region were rewarded last year with cash as a gesture of appreciation for putting the North in renewed literary consciousness through their creative works. Those who were rewarded included Samira Haruna Sanusi for S is for Survivor, Halima Aliyu for Fire on the Tip of Ice, Abubakar Adam Ibrahim for Season of Crimson Blossom, Elnathan John for Born on a Tuesday and Maryam Bogi for Bongel. They were rewarded with N200,000 each for writing the North into immortality.
Nyam had explained that the writings of these authors and those, who will continue to write from the region, are documenting “the heritage, the history, the cultural norms, the joys and tragedies, the challenges and triumphs, the realities of everyday life for a Northern Nigerian man or woman living in Kaduna, Gombe, Sokoto, Katsina, Zamfara, Adamawa are captured, told or interpreted for posterity.
“And what better way to do this than to put these valuable narratives between the front and back covers of professionally-edited and beautifully-illustrated books. We strongly believe that those who ensure that Northern Nigeria contributes to the literary canon of this country must be rewarded and encouraged, especially those who have published literary works in spite of the hurdles and encumbrances we all have to brave in this country. This we will also do regularly?”
Nyam had philosophically concluded his presentation on the ennobling virtues of the literary craft thus, “Literature uplifts; literature admonishes; literature enriches and enlightens; literature instills pride and builds nationhood and a sense of togetherness. Literature shines a light on our vulnerability and reminds us of the depths of human agony. But perhaps, most powerfully, literature strengthens. Where war, religious conflict, ethnicity may separate us, literature brings us together and reminds us of our common humanity”.