The former Vice Chancellor, University of Benin, Prof. Grace Alere-Williams, on Friday called on the Federal Government to encourage all tiers of government to build community libraries to promote reading culture and halt the falling standard of education.
She made the call in Abuja when she led the City Profs Educational Foundation, an NGO, on a courtesy visit to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo to draw attention of the administration to the need for emphasising reading culture in the country.
Alele-Williams said the visit was in pursuant of the cause the foundation had taken in the past 12 years to promote reading and writing to improve children and old peoples’ education.
She later told State House Correspondents after the visit that reading culture would go a long way in addressing the falling standards of education in the country.
She said that the foundation began as a project to promote the reading culture of children in Ijebuland through the opening of libraries in communities.
She said that with collaboration from the various tiers of government as well as philanthropists the dearth of libraries nationwide could be addressed.
The former vice chancellor said that the foundation’s presence was being felt in Bariga, Surulere and other parts of Ijebu land.
She stressed the need for the multiplication of such facilities in different parts of the country to promote reading among rural dwellers.
“What we did was to start a library. Actually, we started gathering children together from Primary three to Primary six, from the under-privileged and tried to get them to read and write.
“As we did this, one of us decided that he would convert three classrooms into a library to improve our teaching of English.
“At that time there was a lot of talk that even graduates from the universities could not write in simple English.
“We have gone a long way because people who came and saw the library we built offered to build us a bigger one, which they did,’’ she said.
The don said that the foundation’s library in Bariga was built by two partners in a firm.
“The state, the local government council, the functional school boards of the state came in and managed to get the community to come and participate as well as take over the maintenance of the library.
“The whole idea was, children get out of school, and many of them don’t have places to read or have other books to read.
“But we get teachers to assist them come together, learn to read and write and not cram, because we want them to build up their intelligence.
“We provided teachers for a little stipend who teach the children how to read properly,’’ she said.
Alele-Williams mentioned former Head of the Interim National Government, Chief Ernest Shonekan, and former Lagos state governor, Babatunde Fashola, as persons who identified with the foundation’s initiative.
She also said that Osinbajo hailed the initiative and added that government had a lot of programmes to uplift the falling standard of education.
“If you provide the place, the children will be happy and their skills of communication is improved; it will be to our good because if you can’t read English, I don’t know what else you can do,’’ Alele-Williams added.
A member of the delegation, Maj.-Gen. Samson Odunsi (rtd), former Commandant of the Army Training Deport in Zaria, noted that the library project was having tremendous impact on the rural children.
Odunsi, who retired 14 years ago, advised those who had left public service to embrace community projects in their various states.
“Today, we have children and elderly people going to study and read other things to improve their knowledge,’’ said the retired general.
He said the intention was to create e-library so that in future, the facilities could be utilised for the growing Computer Based Tests (CBT).
“I believe that if the project is replicated it will go a long way in children education.
“Whatever the government tries to achieve must be based on education and once the administration gets the educational system right it will get other things right.
“It is because we are not getting the educational system right that we are getting the ancillary problems of insurgency, crime and so on.
“If a child is educated and has something to do, you cannot give him guns to kill and he accepts it.
“This is a good step in the right direction and we expect it to penetrate to other states through individuals so that the poor children will have where to use,’’ Odunsi emphasised.