The problem began with the pronunciation. Was it Reading as in the present continuous sense of “reading”? Or as in Redding? Didn’t he say he was going to Oxford whereas all he said was that he would visit Oxford. He could imagine his Uncle Very-very with a map south-west England and tracing the line of the train from London to Oxford and even beyond. So, maybe the train was not going beyond Reading, however it was pronounced. Would he give as excuse the reason why he never went to Oxford? He laughed the way and manner his beer-mates would laugh at him.
This is when he would stop drinking beer.
Anyway, on the occasion of “world reading day”, he decided to remember those who made reading and writing possible for him.
The first person was Dr. Stevenson who was the GP heading the General Hospital in Akure. The boy was sickly when he was young and he frequently stayed in the hospital for a week or two. After a particularly lengthy stay in the hospital during which time both the doctor and his portly wife, brought him reading materials, he went back, on outing day, to visit them and thank them. This is how he became one of the school boys who travel around the country when the doctor went to courts to give medical witness.
The stream of books and magazines like Geographical did not stop flowing. Then he began to give him essay topics for him to write about.
The second person was the library prefect, later Professor Adejuyigbe of the Geography Department at the University of Ife, later Obafemi Awolowo University. He made him read a novel a week and write a summary of the book and why he enjoyed the novel.
The third person who taught me how to read academically is Professor Ladi Adamolekun. You have to possess one of those well-marked in multi-biro colors to appreciate an academic at work.
He didn’t remember when the question of studying Geography became a regular discussion topic with the future professor of Geography. He was possibly the one who first suggested Reading for studying anything Geography in Reading. For other reasons he studied other subjects.
Somehow, he never found out how Reading became more famous than Oxford for the Geography. God only knows such secrets. It was the process of learning to read that one saw that each profession had its hard work. The farm was not a favorite of the school boy because of the long trek to the farm and back, probably carrying some farm product. Or worst still fire wood. Those three – going, coming back and carrying fire wood do not last. But what you have to do when you are in the farm is hard labour. To go to the farm in the time of the dry season when no weed is growing waiting to be cut is to enjoy the farm. It is the time of harvest when those little yams are yours to play with and later, to eat.
Compared with the period of the rains, with which the long school holidays have been synchronized, the dry season is a period of rest from school work.The idea of needing rest from doing nothing used to amuse the first Christians. They were convinced that it was sheer laziness that made them stay away from the farm on Sunday.
This easy comparison made farming out as work and school as mere play-play. For a long time school pupils did not know how to take academic as seriously as farm work. As far as he was concerned he was into his final year before he began to appreciate academic as work needing perseverance and steadiness of purpose. By this time he was already being excused from the farm. It was at this time that he began to show enthusiasm for the farm. He offered to go on training for various spray training. Farm became more interesting.
Academic work demands patience, sit-down strike buttocks and endless hours of reading. If there were no examination at the end of term there would be no trouble. But you had to pass the examination in order to get promoted to the next class. Year after year you have to pass these various examinations one after the other until the final examinations.
It could end up at Trenchard Hall where some of the papers could last for five hours. This was when there was only one all mighty exam in June.
There were innumerable myths around June. People went mad. Some students went crazy. Some did not remember any of the things they were taught which they had committed to memory only to forget the whole thing. And now that the student is sweating he begins to recite what he could not remember in the hall. Here begins another chapter? Can the student be permitted to go and complete his exam now that he has recovered his senses? Not possible. The student got up cursing the whole great grand father of all examinations.
So, as the results were at the top, so they were in the bottom class as they were in the middle classes. Failure galore. Then they will say the year was terrible. So many failed to make it.
If the young man had gone to plant cocoa beans supported by a 500 ridges he would be somewhere now. Twenty years wasted trying to read your way to the senior service ended in failure.
Until today! Today people would argue that school is waste of time. After all you could buy the paper from the office of the academic officer. Or employ someone with the certificate to come and work for you. Some even swear they would employ som one to read newspapers to them. That is how reading has been ruined in our land. Somehow a new generation will find use for reading. For pleasure but also for work as well. So may it be.