Tag Archives: Secondary school

They Said Nigerians Don’t Read

I have been working  through some books lately, in which Nigerians “in general” (and you know how I feel about generalizations) have been criticized for not having much of a literary culture. People say Nigerians only mostly read Christian or self-help books, and news papers. Honestly, I cannot say that this isn’t true. It’s a terrible problem, made even more terrible by the fact that very few people actually consider it a problem.

I believe it starts with the way literature is taught in most Nigerian schools – to build up a catalogue of practically meaningless facts, rather than to grow literary curiosity and thought. I remember one of my literature teachers in secondary school very fondly – the one who did her research and actually seemed to know what she was talking about, not the lazy one who said “basically” at least twice in every sentence he uttered. Every time we talked about forms or genres, she would always say that an example of the epistolary form is “Mariama Ba’s So Long A Letter“. She repeated this phrase in this particular arrangement so many times, I can hear her voice saying it even as I type it.  Not, “So Long A Letter by Mariama Ba,” not “Mariama Ba’s novella,” not any other variation of that phrase.

This was a fact that I learned in order to pass exams. It was introduced to me as such, and it stuck. We never discussed the actual text and its merits as a distinct work of literature. I wonder now if my teacher had actually read the book, or if she was merely reeling off facts she herself had come across in her education. I had always assumed that she must have read it, but thinking back now to how she hardly said anything else about that text in spite of how often she mentioned it, or how she never had any other examples for the epistolary form, I wonder.

We can’t excel at things if we don’t teach them practically! We would have more literary curiosity if we taught literary curiosity and appreciation. We would have more sporting champions if we taught students games on the fields rather than in the classroom. Like, why on earth do I know the dimensions of a basketball court, the rules of scoring, and the history of the game, but I never touched a B-ball all my years in secondary school? Why did I learn about Cricket, and different kinds of sporting injuries? Just… why?

We did far more literary analysis in my CRK (Christian Religious Knowledge) class than we did in my Literature class. So, it’s no surprise that the students grow up to appreciate texts that expound on biblical teachings but not much else. Nigeria’s most read books seem to consist entirely of self-help self-published books. Bible is awesome and all, but literature is also essential!

Maybe people would recognize the fiction in newspapers if they were exposed to other forms of literary fiction. And maybe we would have more respectable Nigeria-based publishers if people had a home-grown appreciation. This way the best writers don’t have to pander to Europe/America and all the ideological pressures that come with that. If Nollywood can thrive, why can’t home grown literature?


Is “Shy Snob” a Redundancy or an Oxymoron? PART II


My friends (and I do mean friends…not acquaintances) are some of the most down to earth people I know. Here is why: If I can’t be honest in my words, emotions, and reactions, I usually won’t have much to say or express. And it takes a bit of time being around someone, and observing their reactions and interactions to speculate how well they will handle me being myself around them, and how much of that they can take.

You see, in any given hour, I can go from hyperactive, to cynical, to hilarious, to brooding, to infinitely excited, or I could be all that all at once. With my friends, I can express all this because I feel comfortable around them, and can do the craziest things when they’re my audience. It’s not because I think that they won’t judge me, but because I trust that they will still be my friends regardless (not frenemies or acquaintances that will politely endure my company).

Most importantly, I don’t feel the need to pretend to be something that I’m not, because trust me, I went through that phase and not only was it very exhausting, I wasn’t very good at it either – I could never keep up appearances long enough for them to count towards a new reputation in those secondary school years.

Secondary school social life was about trading the right people for gossip, and making the right set of friends (no real formula, but be close “friends” with at least one super popular, one super pretty, and one super smart person). And if you refer to my previous post, here, you’ll get the sense that I wasn’t particularly good at the trading the right info part either.

So, in college, I found the friends that worked, Instead of trying to re-tailor myself for the ones that wouldn’t. I learned not to beat myself up over the ones that didn’t stick, but to see it in simply empirical terms, if you will – not compatible.

It sure makes life a lot easier once you realize that not every friendship that doesn’t work out is as a result of any inadequacies you may or may not have. It also helps when you recognize that one has to envy or admire something about someone else in order to stay friends with them, because friends have to make you aspire to something.

Think about it: what do your friends make you aspire to? Beauty? Perfection? Chicness? Kindness? Popularity? Hilarity? Excellence? Intellect?

I can say that I’m neither shy nor snobbish – maybe, I can be a little more than reserved, and maybe a little timid on occasion (who isn’t?). But the real reason I cannot objectively answer the title question is that I don’t know a lot of snobs well enough: I’ve had very little chance to observe one closely. Maybe there are shy snobs out there, I can’t say for sure. But if you’ve managed to read up to this point, please let me know what you make of my musings – redundancy, or oxymoron, or maybe neither?

See the first part of this title, here!