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‘How to stimulate creative instinct of young Nigerians’

While recent effort by the Federal Government to distribute Mathematics, English and Science textbooks worth N5 billion free to primary school students has been lauded, government has also been urged to provide story books to pupils as well. This is to enhance better comprehension of the above subjects and improve their overall educational aspiration.

At a briefing last week in Lagos to announce the 9th edition of the Nigerian International Book Fair (NIBF), Mr. Sam Kolawole, Chairman of the Nigerian International Book Fair Trust (NBFT) underscored the need for government to pay more attention to primary education.

The book fair opens today at the Multipurpose Hall of the University of Lagos, Akoka, Lagos. It will run till Saturday, May 15. Kolawole, who is also Managing Director, University Press Plc’ noted that while it is good for pupils to read textbooks to pass examinations, it is equally imperative for them to read storybooks to deepening their knowledge and stimulate their creative thinking.

He said the recurrent failures being recorded in examinations such as NECO and WAEC was because Nigeria’s educational foundation as currently constituted was faulty and needed to be overhauled. He noted that there was a failure on the part of parents and government in recent years in their inability to encourage students to read beyond merely passing examinations as was the case in times past, which has been made worse with electronic toys such as computer games and internet among other modern gadgets interfering.

According to Kolawole, with N5 billion devoted to textbooks alone without a kobo going to leisure or storybooks, the implication is that the stage has been set for the continuing slide in pupils’ performance. This, he noted, was because reading for examination purposes alone still predominated government thinking and the minds of parents while reading for leisure is marginalised with the added cost implication of an educationally devalued citizenry.

“Nigerians read for certificates but not for leisure,” he said. “What we need to concentrate on is to encourage reading for leisure to open children’s minds. The N5 billion-book contract is only for textbooks. Governments at all levels should spend time to buy storybooks for children. We need to change the way we do things. We have to encourage children to read from early. If internet is the fad, and is where children are going, then we need to meet them there. Watch where they go and channel their learning; there are so many learning sites in the internet to direct them.”

Other highlights of the book fair include a conference, which holds tomorrow, May 11, 2010 at the Afe Babalola Hall of UNILAG. The theme of the conference is Publishing, Education and the Global Economic Trend, featuring Executive Secretary of Universal Basic Education, Dr. Ahmed Modibo Mohammed as guest speaker. Senator Ike Nwachukwu is expected to preside over the conference, while Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola is guest of honour.

Organisers of the NIBF have promised an improved outing this year with several additions to make the fair a truly international one. Media partner, NTA Channel 10 will beam the event live to viewers outside the country in an effort to make the fair comparable to other international book fairs across the globe. Also, over 140 exhibitors will showcase their books and book-related businesses with the halls now extended from A and B to C as a sign of its continuing growth. More exhibitors from outside the country have signified interest to participate in the fair.

Other attractions at the fair will include a joint seminar between African Publishers Trust and NBFT focusing on the role of editors in the book publishing business. Africa Refugee Foundation (AREF) is also partnering with the book fair organizers, and would use the fair ground to talk about their humanitarian activities in disaster management around the world.

Regular programmes such that would stimulate reading habits among children, the Executive Secretary, Mrs. Bose Adetunji said, would be staged as a measure of catching them young, and deepening the intrinsic value of reading as a lifelong pastime among children and not just as a fad designed only to pass examinations. Also, Africa Publishers Network will hold a buyer/sellers’ network for businessmen in the book business to network among themselves.

However, it would seem that the continuing worrisome absence of governments, particularly the Federal Government in previous book fairs is yet to abate as government continues to treat books and educational issues with levity. No single government organ or personality has been confirmed to indicate interest to participate in this year’s book fair. Lagos State Deputy Governor declared the fair opened last year even as the governor was expected to perform the task. The presence of the UBE’s secretary, organizers noted, was coming in his capacity as knowledgeable resource person to speak on the topic of conference and not necessarily as representative of government.

As in previous editionss, the book fair organisers had also passionately appealed to both Federal and State Governments to assist them in getting a permanent site to best propagate the book fair philosophy, which is “bringing books closer to the people for better education and self-improvement.”

According to Kolawole, “The book fair will do better if governments and other book partners come in to play their parts. Government can do more than give financial support but also in providing a permanent site for the fair. We need government to look at the positive side of what we’re doing, and to provide us a site. It’s not impossible for Lagos State Government or the Federal Government to provide us a permanent site to help propagate the values of the book fair.”



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