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The Write Squad promotes reading culture among Abuja students

By By Micheal Orie
10 May 2010   |   2:23 pm
ON Tuesday, April 27, the second edition of My Book and I was held with Alhaji Abubakar Jijiwa as Host/Read Ambassador. The session featured another set of six schools that were sent five copies of the book of the month, K. Sello Duiker's The Hidden Star; a story that underscores a link between modern and…
ON Tuesday, April 27, the second edition of My Book and I was held with Alhaji Abubakar Jijiwa as Host/Read Ambassador. The session featured another set of six schools that were sent five copies of the book of the month, K. Sello Duiker’s The Hidden Star; a story that underscores a link between modern and ancient wisdom in Africa from where young and old draw inspiration to navigate the world. Hajiya Sani, an Assistant Director of News at the Voice of Nigeria who represented the DG challenged the children to take reading seriously. “This is a very good initiative that I think requires all the encouragement and support it can get. I also think you also need to increase either the number of schools or the number of students from the six schools so as to give opportunity to more students to benefit.”

Dr. Bibi Bakare-Yussuf, an academician and publishing director of Cassava Republic, publisher of the book of the month, who moderated the interactive session challenged the students to read the right type of book and then try their hands on writing. “To write well you need to read widely. I am not talking about the junks and text books that most of you currently read but about quality literary books. For every one writing you do, you must read ten good books.”

Responding to Hajiya Sani’s clamour for the organizers to take advantage of the technological advancement across the world by providing books in electronic format so that the students can access them at no cost, and thus stimulate their reading instinct, Dr. Bibi is of the opinion that copyrights of the authors may be infringed if these books are made available for free. “Efforts are being made in this direction. However, I must say it has its own challenge too. While Reading the electronic format of books cannot give you the same feeling as holding a book in your hand, how many of these children have access to computer and in extension, internet considering such factors as the economic situation and the fluctuating power supply” she argued.

Over forty students from Government Secondary Schools, Kubwa and Wuse, Model Secondary School Maitama, Government Girls Secondary School, Dutse and the Nigerian Turkish International College participated in this second reading and gave a very good account of their reading ability as they reviewed, analysed and summarised the book, to the delight of guests at the session.

The journey began on October 9, 2009, when an initiative aimed at improving the culture of reading and ensuring the creation of a literate society through the fundamentality of literature was launched in Abuja as part of activities marking that year’s International Literacy Day.

The initiative, a school based literary group, The Write Squad a literary reading project of Arojah Concept, an Abuja based edutainment outfit was officially launched by the Director General of Voice of Nigeria, Alhaji Abubakar Jijiwa at the National Press Centre, Radio House in Abuja.

Alhaji Shuaibu, a director in the organization represented Alhaji Jijiwa at the event. In attendance also were representatives of the Ministry of Education, FCT Education Secretariat, National Action Committee on Read Campaign, the Association of Nigerian Authors and a host of other stakeholders in the education and book industry.

As promised then at the launching by Prince Jerry Adesewo, an Abuja-based freelance writer, theatre practitioner and social worker, the squad on March 2, 2010 flagged off a monthly reading session with FCT schools tagged My BooK & I which he explained was designed to help young Nigerians encounter books and also have the opportunity to meet authors on one-on-one basis. “I owe no one apology if I differ from the opinion that Nigerians don’t read. Nigerians read. The question we should be asking ourselves is: ‘what do we read?’ So, what we hope to do is to find a way of introducing quality literary books to these children, that is capable of expanding their horizon and improve their critical thinking ability.” He said.

The flag off and first session of My Book and I held at the Shehu Musa Yar’adua Centre featured Musidoki, a book by an Abuja based legal practitioner, Ahmed Maiwada, a nominee for the 2009 NLNG prize for literature. The interactive session which was hosted by the former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Dr. Aliyu Modibbo Modibbo had 30 schools from six FCT schools in attendance. The former Minister of Education, Professor Tunde Adeniran, the former Secretary of the FCT Education Secretariat, Alhaji Hussaini Halilu Pai, the Director of FCT Education Resource Centre, Dr. S.I. Aina and others. The guests commended the initiative which they unanimously described as “necessary pathway to improving the reading culture and, in extension, the education standard in Nigeria.”

Initially, reservations were expressed on the sustainability of the project in view of its cost implication. Jerry Adesewo who was on Thursday, April 29 elected unopposed as the Secretary of Association of Nigerian Authors, Abuja Chapter, was quick to respond that the initiative wass designed to survive on the goodwill of Nigerians. “We are aware of this challenge and that is why we chose to have a Host/Read Ambassador for each session of our monthly outing. In addition to mentorship essence which the Hosts/Read Ambassadors are meant to provide, they also bear the cost of the reading. So, we approach reputable Nigerians and organizations who we think are very passionate about literature and education to sponsor these readings. While we are already making contacts with more Nigerians and corporate organizations to support our initiative by hosting the reading sessions, I have the privilede to inform that Professor Tunde Adeniran, a former Minister of Education and Nigeria’s Ambassador to Germany has agreed to host the next edition featuring Sade Adeniran’s Imagine This.” It will hold on May 25 to mark 2010 Africa Day.