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Updated: Dec 27, 2023

I feel embarrassed whenever I stop a group of secondary school students on the road and ask them to mention a country capital they know. It gets weird when they start mentioning Nigeria's state capitals. Of course, a brilliant student (a girl, usually) often finally comes up with the answers. Still, the point is that our teenage kids are quickly losing the ability to gather the kind of generic knowledge that grows with leisurely reading.

Part of the blame should be the lack of libraries and bookshops in our towns and cities. Our state governors and local government councilors see the establishment of these fundamental educational structures as irrelevant in their reelection bids, thereby stealing from us the ability to raise more knowledgeable citizens with the expertise to establish a better society.

Increasing educational funding is a massive first step, but fixing our educational curriculum in our secondary schools is a must. For example, have we discontinued local and general history from our school curriculum? If so, then I think this is a move that could only reduce the number of knowledgeable citizens poised to direct the affairs of this country with a balanced view of the world, especially when reading as a culture is fast eroding. The fact is that if we get back to our reading ways, we will not only harness the knowledge studying history imparts to our society, but our young population will also come to appreciate the advances in science and technology causing ripples across the globe, as well as how far behind we've dropped in this important field assisting Mankind into a brighter eco-friendly future.

Reading is enjoyable if the right environment is created for it. For example, I applaud the idea that indigenous authors producing local content should be encouraged, but a situation where the final products are half-baked stories with no dynamically engaging characters and plotlines does society no good. A library full of books authored by foreigners with a few verified local writers gives back more to society than the said scenario, especially if an air of participatory enjoyment is established for the reader by the author.

This doesn't mean that foreign authors are better. It just highlights the fact that other countries that took mass education (including societal reading) very seriously have started reaping the fruits of their labor years after establishing libraries and bookshops in their towns and cities, thereby producing better authors alongside better scientists, technologists, and leaders.

Now, back to our topic. Social media and Nollywood have also contributed to turning our teenagers into visual consumers who lack the will to read, a participatory process that involves mental exercise. Gone are the days when our young boys and girls spent more time in the school library than at home watching movies. This is why China's directive to parents to limit the time their offspring play video games daily is commendable. I think that Nigeria should borrow that particular leaf. See you later.

George Shadow writes from Owerri, Nigeria.

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