The Oxford Advanced
Learners Dictionary has defined the word ‘read’ as to ‘look and comprehend the meaning of written or printed words. Reading, therefore, is the act of comprehending a written or printed material which by extension is the acquisition of knowledge of the said material.
Particularly in the formal education process, reading is paramount. In today’s world however, reading is not limited to formal education but also the informal and this is due largely to civilization and technology.
While some could read fluently, they have little or no ability to comprehend and some others could even barely read. Through levels of understanding and assimilation vary, it is an established fact that a conscious zeal and constant effort into reading is bound to yield a positive result as it is said “practice make perfect’ and ‘determination is successes.
Unfortunately, recent research has shown that a higher percentage of students/scholars lack the zeal of reading while others have a low capacity of assimilation which is the near absence of reading.
Situations abound where students in their examination halls both at the primary, secondary and tertiary institutions could not read the questions properly much more to understand them.
More disheartening is the resort to Information and Communication Technology (ICT) gadgets where these students trade their time of reading for roaming and chatting via the social networks.
At the 32nd Matriculation ceremony of the Rivers State University of Science and Technology (RSUST), held in January this year, the vice Chancellor of the institution, Prof Barineme Bekae Fakae revealed that the institution expelled 588 students for poor performance. The root cause I guess was the absence of reading habit among those students.
Fakae also stated that out of the over 110,000 students that applied through the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) and went through the University Matriculation Examination (UME), only 2,955 candidates were found worthy to be admitted within the National University Commission (UNC) approved carrying capacity.
The alarming rate of failures in recent examinations in WAEC, JAMB, GCE, UTME including internal examinations is courtesy of the non-reading habits of these students. The failure is not just in an arithmetic progression but in geometric progression as evident in the recently released results of the 2014 May/June Senior School Certificate Examinations (SSCE) by the West African Examination Council (WAEC) which in comparison, with recent past years, the Head of WAEC, Charles Eguridu described as ‘a poor performance in the overall percentage’.
This, of course, has left me with the fears of a better tomorrow as far as the education sector is concerned.
It was the decay in the reading culture of today’s students that challenged the United Bank for Africa (UBA) in one of its recent programmes to donate over 140 copies of Things Fall Apart’, a renowned novel by Chinue Achebe to students of Brian Field Secondary School in Obio/Akpor Local government area of Rivers State.
In fact, the dearth of reading culture has resulted to illiteracy, a bane of self-security and indeed, the root cause of most social vices imminent in the society today. It was also on this premise that the Rivers State Governor, Rt Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, at the maiden convocation of the Rivers State College of Arts and Science (RIVCASS) in April this year said “education has the power to free Nigerians from the shackles of ignorance, disease and poverty” and I wonder how that can be achieved without reading.
In and of himself, the governor thought that the bagging of the World Book capital city for 2014 by Port Harcourt as conferred by the United Nations Educational, scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) was the resultant effect of a reading city- was his thought correct?
The occasion was garnished with readings by popular actors and actresses in the bid to inspire pupils and students with the spirit of reading.
Yes! Port Harcourt and indeed Nigeria is the UNESCO’s World Book Capital but so far, has it got any improvement on the reading habits of its students or people? The answer is an obvious No. And I ask, what is the problem? Could it be the environment, guest for survival that would leave little or no time for such brainwork or an innate tendency of the modern world?
Reading produces literacy whose absence has the cankerworms of insecurity, superstition, ignorance, poverty among others as revealed by the acting Director, Rivers State Library Board, Elder Lucky O. Welekwe. Thus, in a proper literate society, certain protests (which of course, has taken the centre stage in the Nigerian system) are carried out in a refined manner as opposed to the awkward and malicious form they assume in this country and I fear describing the nation as a near-illiterate nation evident in its approaches to certain developmental issues.
The-cry of most teachers, parents, lecturers and principals are all the same: these students do not read! The question again is, how do they progress in their classes and levels as much as being graduates? Undoubtedly, the issue of class repetition is dead and buried in modern educational system because whether being able to read and write or not, the child or student is promoted and subsequently, successfully excelled in each level of academic pursuit.
This act buttresses the point that malpractice is the order of the day springing up from all sides of sector’s coin. The students would abandon their books for other social activities and at the end of the day receive a tap at the back by teachers on receipt of the students’ brown envelops which indeed, would boost his/her presumed economic background which the government had neglected or ignored.
Yet in the faces of all these, nobody wants to own up to the malady. The truth however, remains that the quest for academic knowledge is gradually fading among students and scholars leaving the ratio to about 2:10 of all students.
Suffice it to say that the damage has been done yet, revival is needful. It is high time all hands be on deck to resuscitate the dead reading culture of our students and people alike not just for the growth and development of these students but the future of the Nigerian nation. And it all begins with oneself.
Students/Scholars should individually strive to challenging themselves with sincere, self-sacrificing and well-deserved first class results in their various and varied academic pursuits. There should be that self-reawakening and determination to excel, an act that certainly cannot be achieved by a magic calculation but self-discipline.
It all begins with ‘absolute’ reading habit or culture, the very basis of every form of education. Therefore, read and take your position. Acquire skill and make your monumental and developmental contributions to the nation, state and society at large.
Lady Godknows Ogbulu
Before Youths Are Consumed
It has become expedient for all Nigerians to be subjected to mandatory periodic drug tests, given the high crime rate and the pervasive killings across the land. Honestly, how this proposition can be accomplished remains unclear at the moment.
From time to time Nigeria is rudely reminded that there are issues concerning the mental and psychological state of a good number of citizens, especially youths, in relation to illegal drug consumption. The most recent reminder were the incidents of 1st January 2018 when daredevil cultists and herdsmen effectuated widespread killings in different parts of the country including Rivers State.
Drug use and abuse are obvious reasons why many youths have taken to heinous crimes. Hard drugs are the source of dangerous crimes and health problems in our society today. Because of their regular abuse, drug-related incarceration has increased in the country’s prisons.
What is drug abuse? It is the deliberate use of chemical substances for reasons other than their intended medical purposes which results in physical, mental, emotional or social impairment of the user. In other words, drug abuse can happen when they are used illegitimately.
Why are many Nigerian youths taking to massive drug consumption as a way of life? There are two primary reasons for it. These are peer group influence and depression. Another reason for the huge drug intake is ignorance. Many drug addicts believe they need hard drugs to feel good. So, they are taken as routine medicines.
That is why the fight against the plague has to be intensified before our youths are consumed. The National Agency for Food, Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) and the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) have to be up and doing in this legendary battle by preventing the sale of pernicious drugs in the country.
Both agencies must ensure that dangerous drugs like codeine, tramadol, diazepam etc. are only sold upon presentation of doctor’s prescription to prevent their abuse. Punitive measures have to be instituted against erring medical doctors in this regard.
It is hard for anyone to dispute the expansive deglutition of hard drugs in Nigeria, especially in the northern part of the country. For instance, recently released statistics indicate that about three million codeine are consumed in Kano and Jigawa States annually.
The situation is so awful that some residents of the Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camp in North East are involved in this misconduct. While girls take dangerous cough mixtures and other drugs with codeine to get ‘high’, boys use cocaine, heroine and Indian hemp.
Indian hemp is the most frequently expended drug perhaps because it is home-grown and so easily accessible. It is also cheap. Because of its effect in mood alterations, poor and uneducated youths have found ally in it to their detriment.
Precarious drugs are ingested in virtually all sections of the country. For example, between October and November last year, officials of the NDLEA, Bayelsa State Command, arrested 77 illicit drug suspects. The command says tramadol, codeine and diazepam were among drugs absorbed by youths in the state.
Youths who are into drug abuse have to be educated on their effects more so when it has been established that reckless use of hard drugs can destroy kidneys and make the victims vulnerable to cancer. It also leads to increase in crime rate, mental disorder, child abuse, domestic violence, rape as well as homelessness and poverty.
For these reasons, access to illicit drugs must be restricted. Unrestricted access to drugs and poor regulatory framework are part of the reasons for the astronomical increase in their unauthorised use. Governments and law enforcement agencies in the country must obviate this.
Additionally, the existence of many unregistered and illegal medicine outlets and open drug markets all over the country make it easier for Nigerians to source some of these drugs without prescription.
The recurring hazard of drug misuse and abuse is taking unprecedented toll on the health of consumers. What the development requires is immediate erection of rehabilitation centers across the country to assist in quick rehabilitation of drug addicts.
To check this trend, governments and all stakeholders must collaborate and design ways to prevent access to dangerous substances. Also, drug regulation must be made stronger to thwart distribution chains. Open drug markets in major cities have to be identified and dismantled as well.
Nigerians should be properly enlightened on the dangers of hard drugs and be made to purchase drugs with prescription from only registered pharmacies as is the case in civilised climes. NAFDAC and NDLEA have so much to do in this regard. They have to synergise to stem the wanton abuse of drugs that promote high crime rate currently experienced in the country.
ASUU, CONUA And ABN Phenomenon
The Tide newspaper, Monday, October 7, 2019, carried a headline: Splinter Group Emerges in ASUU (P.16). Anybody who knows the antics of mischief makers would not find it difficult to understand that Nigeria has been under the spell of “spoilers” for quite a long time. Similarly anybody who has taken keen interest in crisis management strategies may have come across the local version of the “divide-and-rule strategy, called “Okamike factor”.
Current emergence of a splinter group among Nigerian university lecturers under the name “Congress of University Academics” (CONUA), had long been expected. What the wider public should be told is the operational strategy of paid agents who play the role of “spoilers”. Sponsorship of such groups can be traced to political authorities or the establishment. Their spoiling roles and activities cut across public establishments and labour unions.
An Association for Better Nigeria (ABN) emerged years ago as a countervailing force of extra-patriotic Nigerians. Members of that group were so patriotic that they spoiled the ambition of a Presidential aspirant whom they were paid to spoil. Their activities went further to plunge Nigeria into deeper political crisis and also resulted in the early death of a naïve female Justice who got involved in the spoiling game. Thanks to injection of military stratagem into civil politics!
Unknown to the Nigerian public, there emerged a voodoo system of crisis management, strongly consolidated via the use of a faceless cabal. Readers of this article would find it instructive to trace the whereabouts of the ABN voodoo master and his current state of health. Interview him if possible. The triumph of evil is usually short-lived and pyrrhic. So, let it be with Dr Faruk!
Of more concern to the reader is the pattern of selection of willing tools in the service of the cabal. There is a growing evidence of the stereotype about some ethnic groups being ready to sell their souls for money, becoming a self-fulfilling prophesy. When the spoiling virus found its way to a professor of virology for being responsible for the nation’s economic adversity by taking a cup of tea and gold wrist watch as a gift, keen watchers knew that the game was one-sided and political.
In the case of the university system, the game played out via Professor Ben Nwabueze’s theory of “Imperfect Obligation”, whose motive was to annul an agreement between ASUU and the Federal Government. A similar strategy of annulment of an election result via the ABN voodoo antics also succeeded. It was not an issue of concern that there arose divisions and animosities among lecturers, and a national crisis arising from arbitrary annulment of an election. What was important was momentary victory.
The use of willing tools and fifth columnists as spoilers goes with some reward, via unmerited promotions, political appointments or some other personal gains. In the case of universities, the spoiling game resulted in managing the institutions like fiefdoms and labour camps. This was followed by a system of witch hunt, ostensibly to root-out radicalism in the campuses. In the old Rivers State Unviersity of Science and Technology, team-spirit and collegiality were destroyed via the use of an “Integrity” group. A Vice-Chancellor would not have the courtesy of listening to any advice of older colleagues who taught him a few years ago.
There is no doubt that there was a deliberate process of installing the divide-and-rule strategy as an establishment practice. A vital part of its implementation included the use of “big stick” to make any recalcitrant radical to tow the establishment line. The strategy has continued to work, thanks to dealers and wheelers in compilation of secret personal dozzier. In the case of universities, some Vice-Chancellors used cultists and female church members to feed their personal computers with unverified information about staff who are not in their “good book”.
Obviously, any establishment managed through gossip peddling and boot-licking strategies would breed and encourage divisions and animosities among the staff. The role of politics in these malpractices is that those who engage in them are being rewarded for previous exploits, or do so with the hope to be rewarded thereafter. The over-all consequence is that efficiency and cooperation among a workforce become seriously undermined.
In the past 41 years of the existence of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), all internal crises have always had external political influences. It is quite sad that ethnic and religious influences can also create divisions among such enlightened workforce as the ASUU. Now even private universities are not immune from the spoiler virus.
While individuals may differ widely according to numerous factors, commitment and loyalty to the goals and objectives of the organization that an individual work for should not waver. But the spoiler virus destroys personal conviction and commitment, thus rendering the strategy of management by use of a cabal dangerous. Same strategy is playing out in Rivers State electoral matters, via the current AAC/APC/Army alliance.
Why nothing works out effectively in Nigeria is largely due to what a researcher described as “Okamike factor”. If an incompetent dabbler confronts you with a big stick and money and tells you that he knows and can perform better, what would you do? Fight him; go to court to challenge him, or resign your appointment? In the Nigerian experience, money being such a great soldier, would easily resolve the crisis. But the society pays a sad price for such gangsterist system of management of national affairs. This is exactly what had unwittingly been installed in Nigeria’s public establishments. It has evolved from mafia to cabal. It is not relenting or about to stop. Its sponsors are strong!
Dr. Amirize is a retired lecturer from the Rivers State University, Port Harcourt.
Need To Maintain Our Institutions
Nigeria is a sovereign nation and all hands must be on deck to maintain its sovereignty. To achieve this, a number of infrastructural developement must be put in place. The ideology of sovereignty of any nation is to make things possible for the citizens. Since Independence till date there has been slow pace of development in the country. This is as a result of nonchalant attitude of the leaders in government and some citizens when projects are awarded for execution. Often times, when it comes to solving problems for the masses what you hear is that there is no political will to enforce the policy. One wonders the kind of political will our leaders need before things are put in place. The deposit of mineral resources in the land of Nigeria is a good omen for national development.
The education sector has been drifting from its original aims and objectives. This is because the system is no longer meeting the expectations of the nation. In any sovereign nation, education is the door way of achieving purposeful development. Through research works in education, other sectors are managed effectively and efficiently. The falling standard of education caused by neglect of the sector has caused emigration of Nigerian students to neighbouring nations, thereby, denying our educational institutions funds to upgrade their facilities. Today, most of the leaders and well-to-do in Nigeria send their children and wards to Ghana, the US and the UK for university education.
It is true that no nation is an island. But that does not mean we should abandon our country for foreign facilities.
Indeed, the power or energy sector is one of the sectors begging for massive improvement and upgrading of facilities. The federal government has said so much about improvement of power in the country. Yet no meaningful achievement has been recorded. And if the government is ready to improve power in Nigeria, there is no need for the federal government to budget for generators for Aso Rock or government buildings. That is suspicious! In Nigeria, generators have taken over the power sector. And so each time generators are mentioned in the budget there is need for doubt. Over the years, Nigerians have been complaining of poor power supply in the country. And to many the cry against epileptic electricity supply is waste of time. All the processing and manufacturing industries use electricity from generators to power their machines. But in some countries of the world there is constant supply for decades. No wonder some companies are relocating to neighboring countries where electricity supply is relatively constant. Recently, there was bidding for electricity facilities in the country. There is no need for further delay in ensuring efficiency in the power sector. Therefore, power should not be toyed with, if Nigeria wants to be one of the biggest economies in the world. Everyone needs electricity in Nigeria.
Nigeria has been known as a developing nation for many years now and has not achieved tangible development, due to some nefarious activities of some persons in government and outside government. Nigeria has a wide road network but yet the roads in the country are in deplorable state, which gives room for questions. Nigerians enjoy pot holes-free roads in UK, the US and other nations of the world. But when road projects are awarded to some of them to construct as it is done in foreign nations, some siphon the funds or use poor quality materials to construct roads in the country. Today our federal roads are begging for reconstruction and rehabilitation, because they are very bad. And those who do the shoddy jobs are applauded and more multimillion projects are awarded to them to continue the bad jobs. Something has to be done to stop the ugly trend of events in the country. Because the roads are bad, motorists take the opportunity to charge commuters heavily. This also has led to high cost of commodities and has weakened the purchasing power of many Nigerians . Indeed, most of the staple foods we eat in the country are imported from foreign nations. For instance, Nigeria depends on imported rice till date when there are arable lands for rice farming in the country. Abakaliki rice is still under peasant farming system till today because government has not taken any proactive measure to improve rice farming in the country. There is need for concerted effort by all to change the state of things in the country.
Health for all has been a long time slogan which no one wants to sing or recite again because of the inability of the government to deliver health services to the people. It is still very sad to hear that Nigerians can only get better medical treatment abroad. Why? Nigeria has the resources that could make her health system the best in the world. Today, cancer screening machine is rare to come by in the country. Few months ago there was outbreak of Lassa fever in some states of the nation. And it was a difficult task to get treatment, because the machine to screen a victim’s blood sample is only in Benin. And it was reported that Lassa fever was first noticed before independence of our dear nation.
Indeed, today we fund foreign health system and they keep on growing faster than ours. Almost every government functionary receives his or her medical check up abroad. That is why our health sector is dying even when we have professionals to make it work. It is high time our leaders pondered anew to change some things. The national and state assemblies should enact laws that should make the government to improve its facilities. Over dependence on foreign institutions when we need to improve and develop the ones we have is a serious threat to democracy. Therefore, there is need for government at all levels to embark on an aggressive campaign on infrastructural development in the nation. Nigerians can enjoy the best if there is honesty and selfless service to humanity.
Ogwuonuonu wrote in from Port Harcourt.
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