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With Hanging Libraries, Nigeria evolves new way to bridge literacy gap

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As part of efforts aimed at improving literacy in the country, a group of young Nigerians has come up with an innovative way of making books available in classrooms across the country.

The concept is simple: solid leather or tarpaulin fashioned in shoe rack-like pouches containing books and hung on the walls of a classroom.

Driving the initiative is Hanging Libraries of Nigeria (HBN), an initiative of two not-for-profit organisations – The Neo Child Initiative (TNCI) and Aid for Rural Education Access Initiative (AREAi). It was part of activities designed to mark World Literacy Day.

While speaking at the launch in Lagos last weekend, Project Manager, Oluchi Buchi-Njere, noted, “we understand that books are critical to sustainable development. Through this unique project, our goal is to provide resource-friendly ‘hanging libraries’ made from fabric or clothing material that can be hung easily in classrooms to shelf. We believe these libraries are innovative and best attuned to the resource-constrained communities we are targeting through this project.

“The project was initially piloted last year as a National Youth Service Corps Community Development project by Dr. Yusuf Shittu while serving in Ejigbo, Lagos with a nexus of seven public schools namely Ejigbo Model Nursery and Primary School, Ageke Nur/Pry School, Ifoshi Nur/Pry School, Fadu Nur/Pry School, Imakiyo Nur/Pry School, Adegboyega Nur/Pry School and Oba Moruf Nur/Pry School benefiting from a total of 42 hanging libraries stocked with books.

“This year, we are taking it a step further by scaling up the initiative to involve at least 100 primary schools in 100 communities across Nigeria; supporting them with low-cost improvised libraries stocked with books and other educational materials to contribute towards raising the standard of education in the country.”

Similarly, Olawunmi Bayode-Treasures, who broke World Record in the ‘Longest Marathon Reading Aloud’ category, having read for 122 hours, also stressed the need for Nigerians to cultivate the culture of reading.

According to him, the reason Nigeria is where it is today is because “leaders don’t read. When leaders read, you will see it in what they do. When followers read, you will see it in the way they follow their leaders, because when you have reading followers, you don’t have blind loyalty.

“And when you have reading leaders, you will always see traces of innovation in the way they do their things, because governance is very easy. It has been done before. It is unfortunate that we have leaders who don’t care. In fact, in the north, there is a deliberate effort to discourage education. The northern elite are deliberating impoverishing the people. Nigeria has the highest number of out of school children. Literacy is a word to depict acquisition of knowledge, not only writing or reading. Some people cannot read nor write but they are literate because they have skills.

“In many schools today, hardly will you see one with a library. When there are no libraries, how would the students advance their knowledge? If there are good libraries, parents don’t need to buy books; they just go to the libraries where they will get books for their children to read.

“In 2007, President Olusegun Obasanjo started a project on National Library of Nigeria. Today, the project is an eyesore. I went to Abuja library and what I saw were journals, newspapers, etc, and I said, ‘if this is FCT library, then what do you expect to see at the local governments?’

“I’m not sure that presidents are able to finish two books in the course of their administration. So how do we expect anything from them? An average CEO in America reads at least 30 books every year. We are all one book away from the change we desire in our lives because there is no height you want to attain that has not been achieved before and they are all in books: the start, the process and how to get there.

“Today, education is very cheap. All you need to do is to read and write, have a smartphone, go to YouTube and you can learn anything. Today, we have about five or six functional libraries in Lagos State. Our children are dropping books for smartphones. Taking the phone is not to gain knowledge. In those days, our competition was how many books you have read.”

The event had The Guardian’s Anote Ajeluorou, author of Igho Goes to Farm, and Oladele Medaiyese, author of She Calls Him Daddy, give out copies of their books to support the initiative.


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