2021 World Book Day: Catch them young
The passion for sustainable human capital development eventually pays off for individuals, communities and countries at large. But to succeed at it, the talents of the pupils/students who are the beneficiaries have to be identified early enough, right from the foundation level at the primary school stage. Honing their talents and providing them with the enabling environment to excel is an imperative.
This of course, is buoyed by stable infrastructure, well-equipped libraries and laboratories. And more so, a crop of highly dedicated and well informed teachers, acting as catalysts for impacting all-round knowledge. That is one that goes far beyond the ambits of the school curriculum.
The truth however, as reflected in my motivational book, ‘How to be a Successful Student’ is that sound, solid and impactful education delivery is an all-encompassing feature that involves the inputs of parents, teachers, school administrators, the private sector, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and of course, the government in place.
Interestingly, such pragmatic partnership and collaborative efforts were made practical during the recent celebration of the 2021 World Book Day organized by the Executive members of PEN International, Nigeria Chapter, ably led by the internationally –recognized, award-winning poet, Mr. Folu Agoi (president). To make the desired impact it was held in partnership with the Parents Teachers Association (PTA) of the Air Force Primary School 2 at Ikeja, Lagos, with resourceful public affairs analyst, Richard Inumah as its capable chairman. But there was more to the eye-opening event as it unfolded.
For instance, right there at the Air Force primary school 2, NatnudO Foods ably represented the private sector, with free offering of mouth-watering delicacies. As for the media, both MiTV and UNILAG FM had their correspondents on ground for the effective coverage of the momentous event. And the government’s presence was made profound by the presence of Squadron Leader Seweje, the Air Force Base Education officer (BEO) of the Sam Ethnan Air force Base.
Also there with them were three panelists to do justice to the topic:“Are writers agents of change?” They included Mr.Lekan Sote, respected public affairs analyst and renowned columnist with the Punch newspapers; Mr. Ayo Oyoze Baje, media consultant and the president, Guild of Public Affairs Analysts of Nigeria(GPAAN) as well as Dr. Raphael James, Director General, Centre for Research, Information and Media Development. There to coordinate the proceedings was the popular author, Taghata, a notable member of PEN International, Nigeria Chapter.
But first, who is a writer? A writer is one who puts pen on paper, or with the dynamics of information technology, typesets on a computer to record life’s ever-changing events, his feelings, frustrations, his ideas, dreams and desires. These he shares with the readers in the form of poems, plays, short stories, novels or as text materials covering a wide spectrum of knowledge from the arts, through commerce to science subjects.
According to Sote, who kicked off the rich and robust discourse, writers, with regards to the evolution of the Nigerian history have indeed proved to be agents of positive change. Apart from‘Iwe Irohin’, as the first newspaper in Nigeria by Henry Townsend of the Church Missionary Society in 1859, other newspapers such as the ‘Daily Times’ in 1925, the‘Lagos Daily News’ bought by Herbert Macaulay and John Akinlade Caulcrick in 1927 and the ‘West African Pilot’ which was launched in Nigeria by Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe (“Zik”) in 1937, were impactful in the fight for independence from British colonial rule.
Similarly, the efforts of such publications, especially magazines such as ‘Newswatch’, ‘The News’ and ‘TELL’ were instrumental in the frontal battle against military dictatorship that eventually paved way for the return of democratic governance in 1999.
On his part, Baje described writing as an art, deserving of full commitment, and writers as vessels in the hand of God to get vital messages to human beings. He quoted Toni Morrison who rightly noted that writers are witnesses to the events of history. And also Natalie Ginsburg who reiterated, that a writer is like a river reflecting what passes before him.
He therefore, touched tellingly on his personal experience, particularly at Ochaja Secondary School (now in Kogi state) back in the ‘60s. He recalled how the well-stocked school library and the presence of highly dedicated missionary teachers assisted him greatly and influenced his passion for writing of poems, plays, novels and opinion essays.
He started writing short stories in Form 3, even as a science student at the age of 15. That was back in 1968. He therefore, urged the pupils to cultivate the habit of jotting down their daily experiences and ideas in dairies, which would later inspire them to become accomplished writers.
Incidentally, that was what ace broadcaster, Lydia Eke of UNIILAG FM told her daughter, Ebube Eke who now boasts of an interesting book titled ‘Queen of the Forest’ even while still in her teenage years. Baje recalled how thrilled he was when some few years back, one of his ardent admirers in the literary world called him to say that his poems as published weekly by the ‘Nigerian Herald’ from 1978 till 1985 formed part of his PHD thesis. That is the power of writing!
Capping the discourse was Dr. James, whose profound experiences provide practical ample evidences that here in Nigeria writers are indeed agents of change. For instance, he has published over 20 of his 50 books, donated 41,296 books as at February, 2021. Besides, he has won 181 awards, the latest being the Nobel Peace Prize award from India. But that is not all.
Most exciting is the fact that two of his highly talented daughters are published authors. While the older of them, Oluebube Sharon James happens to be Africa’s youngest published author, doing so at the age of five years and a few months and second in the world, the younger one, Ambassador Uloma Naomi James published her first book at the age of 11 years. A dancer, poet and model, the world has become her stage.
With their presence, the pupils of Air Force Schools 1, 2 and 3 who had exhibited an excellent display through the rendition of poems, short stories and motivational thoughts are adequately inspired to aim for the skies. In the words of Henri Frederic Amiel: “Doing easily what others find difficult is talent; doing what is impossible with talent is genius.”
One is therefore, calling on other schools, ministries of education across the country and beyond to key into this template of catching the talents young and providing our children the enabling environment to excel. As Malcolm X rightly state: “Education is our passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it, today”.
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