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.
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