Tuesday, September 7, 2010

International Literacy Day and My Community

It is yet another September 8, a date set aside by the United Nations as the International Literacy Day to raise international awareness of and concern for literacy problems within communities. First celebrated in 1996, the day reminds the international community of the status of literacy and adult learning globally.

Brought home to my community in Ndokwa West Local Government Area, an oil bearing community in Delta State, International Literacy Day means more than being able to read, write and count. Of course there are lots of people that can do all that. What it should mean in my community is empowerment.

Nature’s endowment in oil reserves has attracted oil and gas companies to the area including the location of a thermal gas power station in the nearby town of Okpai. Also, sundry businesses ranging from banking to hospitality have situated in its major towns and especially, the council headquarters, Kwale. Furthermore, while Politicians jostle for positions and leaders of thought prepare to engage the community in the scheme of things in the overall national polity, are the local people equipped enough to tap into the opportunities that would be available in their immediate community, the state and nation at large?

In my candid opinion, literacy centres, libraries and media resource centres should be set up in major towns in the community to provide tools and resources for knowledge empowerment. Literacy benefits both individuals and communities. Literacy is the fountain of knowledge and knowledge is power. Idle youths in the community are easy preys by Politicians. Also they engage in illicit businesses with a growing tendency to engage in robbery, rape, avoidable communal clashes and social malaise etc.

Such centres provide platforms for community regeneration and renewal for growth and prosperity. It returns the youths to normal paths to development and exposes them to literature and information materials that would renew their minds.

Reading makes a Man, it has been said. Learning to read boosts self-esteem and provides important new skills. In many parts of the world, new literates now qualify for desirable jobs which had previously gone to outsiders.

Ample opportunities exist in the local community including agriculture where learning new skills would expose the population to better agricultural techniques; opportunities exist in oil and gas companies in the area begging to be filled but for lack of qualified manpower. Opportunities also exist for ancillary businesses that serve as feeders to the burgeoning oil sector that can be tapped into if there were enough information on what to do and how.

The community has in recent times witnessed the growth in the number of financial institutions locating in the area. Again, securing jobs in the banks would entail getting good education and choosing the right career. Complaints on marginalization in the state and federal civil service is half solved when there are personnel ready to go on day one.

Centres of this nature provide reading materials and information guide on vocations and professions that would benefit the youths and adults in the community such as agriculture, health, safety and environment matters, security issues, maritime, transport, hospitality and leisure studies amongst others. The Centres provide resource materials for students in the educational institutions located in the community and beyond.

It is also commonplace for seminars and workshops to be held in such centres to boost the morale of the local people and to give them a sense of direction as they look up to some of the resource people to provide mentoring services. The centres offer outreach platforms to disseminate information to the youths on drugs use/abuse, militancy, careers, lifestyles and personal development. It serves as an oasis for people in and outside of the community that seek information or to conduct research on local issues.

Literacy is the key tool in reducing poverty. Its effects extend beyond personal benefits and are priceless. It has the ingredients that will give people newfound confidence and improved self-esteem that will spill into all aspects of their lives and the communities to which they belong. Our hope is that our governments, companies operating in the community and well meaning Nigerians would support communities, for example, Ndokwa West Local Government Area with knowledge based resource centres. By so doing, there would not be doubts on whether the UN Millennium Development Goals are achievable in 2015.

The writer, Ndudi Osakwe has proposed a library and media resource centre to be situated in Kwale, Ndokwa West Local Government Area, Delta State and named after Mr. Ossai Osakwe, a pioneer educator of blessed memory. He made sure his people were literate at a time when being literate was not a popular choice in his community.

Send your comments to nosakwe@ibgnigeria.com


mycompanion said...

AN indigenous oil company, Pillar Oil Limited, Kwale, Delta State, has donated a set of computers and printers to Utagba Ogbe Grammar School, Kwale and Girls Grammar School, Umuseti, Ndokwa West local government area of the state, reported the Nigerian Vanguard.

It also donated books to Modern Primary Schools 1 and 2 as well as drugs to the Kwale General Hospital, Kwale.

Speaking during the presentation ceremony, the Managing Director of the company, Mr Spencer Onosode, disclosed that educational assistance was also given to deserving students in Kwale and its environs.

He expressed the hope that the materials would be utilized expeditiously, and noted that it was in the interest of the oil companies operating in the Niger Delta to have a holistic and realistic plans for the development, participation and engagement of local communities without compromising safety and standards.

He urged oil companies to develop a participatory approach that would reduce mutual suspicion and promote peace and rancour-free working environment.

Onosode said the company, along side its ongoing contribution towards educational assistance within the communities, was also in the process of designing skill acquisition programmes that would benefit the communities.

mycompanion said...

Rekindling reading culture

Editorial (Sunday Sun, Wednesday, December 29, 2010)

Moved by the desire to rekindle interest in reading among Nigerians, especially the young ones, President Goodluck Jonathan recently launched the new book project tagged, “Bring back the book,” in Lagos.

At the occasion attended by Nobel Laureate and book enthusiast, Prof. Wole Soyinka, and other notable Nigerians, Jonathan declared that the only way to attain excellence in all human endeavours is through reading.

Now that Jonathan has reminded us of the need to imbibe the reading culture, it is time for other Nigerians to join the crusade. Reading is so important that success in a knowledge-driven world is highly dependent on the amount of reading materials at one’s disposal.

Vital information and knowledge are hidden in books. In fact, great treasures are locked in books. Reading culture is fundamental to education and the building of the mind. Any nation that neglects reading will not experience great development. Now that the president has woken us up, the next thing is how to ensure that the laudable project comes to fruition. Government should lead in the crusade to revive our reading culture by equipping all libraries in Nigeria with quality books.

There is no doubt that the nation’s reading culture nose-dived due to paucity of reading materials, as well as the obsolete and antiquated nature of most public and school libraries.

To rekindle interest in reading once again, the government should increase its budget on education. What the country votes for education now is still far below the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) – recommended 26 percent. Even nations that take education seriously go beyond the UNESCO ceiling. Government inaction more than anything else is responsible for our dismal reading culture.

To bring back the book, government should be in the forefront of the campaign by ensuring that all our schools libraries and public ones are equipped with good books. It should establish good libraries in all the 774 local government areas in the country so that every Nigerian child will have access to reading materials. Government should also ensure that publishing companies are encouraged to produce books by reducing taxes on imported publishing materials.

Parents should cultivate the habit of buying books for their children instead of just toys and electronic gadgets. Children should spend more time on books and spend lesser time on television, computer games and telephones. There is also the need to set targets on the number of books children can read in a month by their parents.