Nigerian child, books and education

The Nigerian child is an emblem of hope and diligence if parents, teachers and the Nigerian government at all levels can contribute their quotas to the proper upbringing of the child. The child, as innocent as he is, has two main sources of knowledge and exposure: the inborn and the acquired.

The inborn is that which every child possesses such as feeling thirst, hunger and fear or expressing inward passions through crying or shouting. This part of a child's knowledge is quite uncontrollable by human beings themselves. A child can never be prevented from feeling hungry or expressing inward feeling through any means that can draw attention and attract relief.

The other source is the acquired knowledge. This is the most difficult part because it is it that shapes the child's attitude and concept towards life itself. Here come the interferences from other creatures in existence such as the parents, teachers and the environment. The environment is the nature – that is any other things that are not human beings.

This acquired knowledge forms the greatest part of the child upbringing, though according to many poets and philosophers, it is secondary and any child can live comfortably without them. For instance, a child can live without visiting outside his village, without entering a car or riding a bicycle or even learning from anyone. If what he can live on is always available, his small hut becomes his world and life moves on.

The secondary knowledge can be received directly from the schools, markets, gardens, worship places, zoos, recreation centres, farms, in the air, on the seas and through the audio-visual devices. Most of these sources are man-made and therefore are never static. It could be acquired and maintained through practice or forgotten through carelessness or negligence.

This is where books are important. Books are the keepers of all that man can produce and preserve. The significance of books in preserving a child's acquired knowledge can best be viewed from the point that a child at his tender age internalizes whatever comes across his way. The child does not care much about understanding the meaning and implication of what he comes across, but to put it to memory. As he grows, he comes across those things in books and then can always recall them whenever he forgets.

The situation of the Nigerian child in this aspect is pathetic. The larger percentage of this category of the citizenry does not have the opportunity to good education, nor are they afforded the conducive environment to even develop naturally. Even some of the privileged few seem to be developing on substandard reading materials. It is not arguable that a child who grows up in a dirty environment, or whose parents do not maintain ethics of hygiene at home will definitely be influenced by the attitude to be dirty and untidy. Unless otherwise or when the child escapes the environment before maturity, the influence of the parents remains with him. This is an all-round visible and practicable index of environmental grip on the child. It is quite disputable that a child who parents watch blue films or make love openly will be influenced otherwise. And the child's immediate and commonest environment is much more his home than his school.

The books that keep all these in view for the child is lacking in Nigeria. Our children lack the basic books to fasten development of their acquired knowledge. This can also be viewed from the point that neither at the federal, nor the state, nor the local level of government is there any constituted board or institution specially entrusted with the responsibility to cater for the child's education. There is hardly any concerted effort to streamline what the child acquire at a certain point and how he can develop. Most of the efforts are in the leaves of newspapers and files in offices.

In developed or fast developing countries across the world, governments have national boards for children's books. They also have government functionaries that practically and effectively handle issues relating to the child's learning. Children's libraries are established in all major cities of the country and non-governmental organizations that boost educational excellence for the child are encouraged and they work hand in hand with those of the government. These countries understand that despite the level they have attained in human and infrastructural development, sustenance and preservation of all achievements are for future generations to which the child belongs. In short, it is the child who will lead tomorrow to resuscitate, maintain and definite add to what the past heroes and compatriots have attained for the individual countries.

For us here, the Nigerian child should be seen as the person who will repair the ruins we have been plunged into since our so-called independence from British colonialism. Although it cannot be ruled out that Nigeria will regain its lost past glory in few years to come, the real task of Nigeria's revival, rebranding or development lies on our children. The spoils of the nation have touched the grown, and we should hope that if our children are rebranded from cradle, our future will be greater.

Our schools should be equipped with libraries for the adult and for the children. There should be selected books for our children's libraries. On Monday 31st May, 2010, I read a very disturbing news that over 50% of our teachers are not qualified. This was revealed by the Minister of Education herself. It should be of great concern to well-meaning Nigerians because when our children are taught by half-baked teachers, then we are endangering their future directly and by extension prolonging the good things we expect from their generation to Nigeria. So, let the government establish a National Board for Children's Library. Let the government recognize the efforts of non-governmental organizations that focus on education promotion and encourage them.

Parents should exhort effort and assist effectively in their children's education. They should prepare the minds of the children on the need to read useful books. They should spend part of their money in buying useful books whether adventurous, religious, short stories and more. Depending solely on the school assignments or reading is not enough. A problem that arises amongst parents is that some of them think that learning is hard and that the inborn knowledge is a natural one which controls the acquired one. To this group, it implies that the child will naturally learn at the appropriate time. They seem to believe that the brain of a child cannot grab more than it is naturally built to contain.

But they also seem to forget that the child undoubtedly is a potential future leader depending on the foundation he is built. If the child is given a poor educational foundation, it is hard for the child to grow otherwise. Except for naturally gifted children, a child is what the parents programme it to be. However, a child's physique and psyche are a combination of parent-teacher-nature fixtures and influences.

Some parents, especially those who feel not to be hard on their children on education do buy everything for them but books. They go out with the child to eateries and recreation parks and can spend much more for the child on anything other than education and reading materials. They will not create time, however little, to look into the study programme of the child. Some who care would prefer to hire a house teacher to do the whole job. They may not be blameworthy owing to the hard condition in the country. After all, the child cannot read or write with empty stomach. And sincerely speaking, it is more paramount on the parents to ensure proper feeding of their children than educating them. In this comparison, education becomes secondary.

It is quite unfortunate that some parents do not even have much time for each other, not to talk of their children. They are out of the house before the day breaks and come back when the children may have slept. It is really a serious matter with our country.

I recall a story of a father whose only prayer for his child was 'you will pass next term'. The child spent four years repeating one class. Although the child later changed after he was taken by an uncle to another city, the attitude of the father was quite discouraging because God, to whom he prayed to make his child pass next term without practically assisting the child, does not encourage sloth.

All in all, this is not meant in any way to belittle the significance of the audio-visuals to a child's educational upbringing. But it is an assertion that reading has played pivotal role in this aspect because it develops the thinking faculty as well as speaking and reflectional capacities of the child.

Muhammad Ajah is a writer, author and advocate of humanity and good governance based in Abuja E-mail: [email protected]

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Articles by Muhammad Ajah