By Jennifer Ehidiamen
“Acquiring literacy is an empowering process, enabling millions to enjoy access to knowledge and information which broadens horizons, increases opportunities and creates alternatives for building a better life.” Kofi Anan, former Secretary-General of the United Nations.
“We all need to realize that even to live healthy and productive lives, we need to be literate.” Lagos State Deputy Governor, Adejoke Orelope-Adefulire.
In commemoration of the World Literacy Day, the Deputy Governor of Lagos State, Adejoke Orelope-Adefulire, broke Guinness World Records after reading to over 3,000 students and also reading along with about 4,500 people who converged at 10 Degrees Event tagged HEDGREADS, organised by ecole de dessin on Thursday 8th September 2011. The event was streamed live on the web.
Fourteen years old Ifeanyi Kevin who attends Redeem College did not hide his excitement about being a part of the students to break Guinness World Record. “It was nice and fun. I learned the importance of making reading the best hobby.” he chirped.
Copies of “Time Changes Yesterday” by Ngengi Koin, were distributed to students who converged at the event. The Deputy Governor started out by reading aloud to the students, who read along in silence. After sometime, the students joined her and read aloud with her. In the last phase of the reading session, the adults alone read along with the deputy governor. The reading session lasted for about 35 minutes.
Although not everyone got copies of the selected book, due to an overwhelming crowd, participants who had copies shared with those who did not. Prior to the reading, the deputy governor gave a speech, encouraging the students to develop a healthy ready culture. She also revealed the different plans the state government was making towards the development of education sector to boost formal and informal education in the state.
According to her opening address, Nigeria has about 57% literacy rate (15 years old and above who can read). However, recent studies show a declining literacy rate in the country, even though the literacy level in Lagos stands at 87.8%. “We are not relaxing at all as we are committed to achieve a 100% literacy rate.” Said the Deputy Governor.
Globally, 127.3 million youth can’t read or write – 60% are girls. In line with MDG 2, which is a goal to achieve universal primary education for all, Lagos State Government has adopted a policy of “No Child Left Behind” by making basic education free, qualitative and compulsory for all children regardless of ethnic backgrounds.
How effectively will this policy be implemented and measured? How will the underserved communities in rural parts of Lagos be carried along, considering the yawning gap in public communication- between state government and those at the bottom of the pyramid/grassroots?
Meanwhile, the Deputy Governor also revealed that the Lagos state government has also created about 17 Skill acquisition and vocation training centres where apart from learning handiwork and trades, the students are able to acquire basic reading and writing skills.
The HEDGREADS event was organized in an attempt to encourage reading culture in Nigeria. The deputy Governor, Honorable Adejoke Adedulire, revealed that the government was set to implement a policy to encourage students to read at least two hours per two days in a week, in order for them to develop and imbibe a reading culture. “It will in the short run equip them with knowledge and skills to succeed in their studies and in the long run enable them to become leaders that can make this nation great.” Stated the Deputy Governor.
She acknowledged that achieving a high literacy rate would reduce poverty, ignorance and disease and thus promote sustainable and accelerated economic growth. The Deputy Governor urged stakeholders in the education sector to partner with government in raising the literacy level. She advised that students should make reading a habit and become literate to empower themselves to make a difference in their generation. “We all need to realize that even to live healthy and productive lives, we need to be literate.” She said.
The event which was endorsed by UNICEF and facilitated by Ecole de Desin (School of Art), an organization with a vision to create a platform through which Nigerian Art Students can contribute to the development of the country and also where art can be used as a tool to positively affect lives.
“It was very interesting. The Deputy Governor educated us and laid emphasis on what reading will do in our lives. When I get home I will create a habit of reading two hours a day. I do read but not up to two hours per day.” Said Rita Chukwu, a senior secondary school participant, after the event.