It is a common saying if you want to hide knowledge from a black man, place it in a book. One would have assumed with the advent of the internet, a phrase like this would have been trashed. Reading is still a challenge to the black race in sub-Sahara Africa. Knowledge and poverty are like two sides of a coin, they dwell together. One must increase to diminish the other. When knowledge increases, poverty gives way. When poverty increases, knowledge is displaced. The black race needs knowledge that situates on its own needs to address its problems. The beauty of the world is that humanity and resources are created for interdependency. That is what globalization is all about.
We are in the age called the Information and Communication Technology where information is abundant and communication is made easy through the use of technology at the touch of the button. Knowledge is easily made available by access to the internet. Information obtained must be processed to acquire knowledge. The cost of processing information may sometimes be expensive. This brings us to education being a formal means of acquiring knowledge.
Reading habit is formed at the tender age where homework and assignment are encouraged among children. The child grows to pick books to read and begins to fashion his interest and thoughts. The education of the child makes ready the heart and continuous reading strengthens the “fibres” of the mind to learn.
A reader’s interest may range from science, technology, politics, biography, engineering, religion, arts, history, geography, medicine and entrepreneur to motivational. Oftentimes, many a child is distracted and may also not have access to books due to poor economic status. When this happens, generations of blacks who don’t read continue to emerge.
Nigeria has the highest population in Africa with 195 million people. Her out-of-school children increased from 10.5 million to 13.2 million in 2018 according to a survey carried out by the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) and the Nigerian government. Another report indicates that Nigeria accounts for 45% of out-of-school children in West Africa. However, in sub-Saharan Africa with a total population of about 1,050,135,841, one in five children, adolescents and youth is out of school as of February 2018. In 2016, UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) reported that 263 million youth between ages 15 – 17 were out of school. This means the current figure in sub-Saharan Africa is actually being sustained by Nigeria.
More than any factor, poverty drives poor reading habit. Sub-Sahara Africa is the only region in the world where the overall number of extremely poor people is increasing rather than decreasing, according to the World Bank’s latest Poverty and Shared Prosperity report. However, an estimated 413 million people in Africa currently live in extreme poverty. This is more than half of the world’s total and nearly half of her population.
The 2017 statistics on internet access in Africa tends to align with the figures supplied here. As of December 2017, the number of internet users in Africa was 453,329,534; a 35.2% penetration rate and 177,005,000 Facebook subscribers. This might have contributed to the negative value of reading among the learned. The internet with its accompanied Social Media brings along instant information, with instant reading at an instant time. What this means is that man has no luxury of time to go through lengthy texts. He wants to ravish as many information as possible within the shortest possible time and make sense of it. Thus, information must be short, brief and straight to point. This has dramatically altered the reading culture, limit the capacity for details and reduce the analytical ability to subject. This to an extend prompts the emergence of what is now popularly termed as fake news.
Social media holds the largest space for information dissemination. What attract interest and comment the most are usually the mundane and trivial issues. Entertainment and gossip lead the mileage while sports and politics take the second row with religion. Science and technology elicit little comments. Even on professional platforms, it is convenient to post jokes and religious issues and discuss politics than technical issues.
The apathy to engage in professional matters is alarming and this is reflected in the number of technical papers submitted every year at conferences. Technical documents forwarded to professional bodies for comments, usually don’t attract comments from such groups. A man who does not read is far from having the capacity to present a paper or subject work to evaluation and comment.
An average black man is overburdened with needs that he pays little or no attention to reading. He lives in the midst of social infrastructural decays and struggles to meet the demands of time. When he can afford a book to read, his state of mind is in flux, encumbered with the challenges created by him. Reading is a fascination of the mind and a heart that is not moulded is not willing and cannot be compelled.
Until poverty is dealt with and our social infrastructure deficient is addressed, reading will remain a challenge to the black man.
Author: Akan Michael
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