By Yemi Adamolekun
On (Oct 17th), I was on my way to speak at The Waterbrook’s Intelligent Fire Conference, when Tomi sends me screenshots from a friend’s Instagram page on WhatsApp. She followed with “Howwwwww do things like this happen?????? My soul aches. I want to pass out.”
I chuckled, told her it was an issue I was interested in and would raise with one of my co-panelists. Needless to say, the issue was discussed a few times during our panel.
What made Tomi’s soul ache so badly? The shared pages were required reading for a 10 year old JSS1 student. Here are some excerpts:
“Are not Ibos smart enough to take the virginity of their girls?!” (pg 2)
“Are our cocks too short and our balls too small?Bloody hell.” (pg 2)
“A chap from Plateau. Imagine one of those savages who not long ago were going about bare-arsed crouching down on the rocks near their villages like monkeys.” (pg 3)
“She wants to marry that donkey. That pagan from Jos Hills.” (pg 7)
“Nobody! Above all, nobody from another ethnic group! Imagine that donkey from the North courting our sister!”
“Let us leave this fucking place before the arrival of the police! Bloody bitches!” (pg 30)
This book – Zumji & Uchenna – is on Nigeria’s national curriculum. For Whitesands School, Lagos, it was on the reading list for JSS3 students in 2013. For Igbinedion College, Benin, it was on the list for JSS1 students in 2011. This is 2015.
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Now, when a book is teaching ethnic hatred in the context of sex, possibly non-consensual (rape) and terrible language and grammar to 10 year olds, what do we expect to happen when they get into university?
Since we love the blame game in Nigeria, who do we blame?
Of course, an easy target will be the Department in the Ministry of Education, or any of its parastatals, responsible for approving books for our school curricula. But what about teachers who discussed the play in class, created assignments and marked those assignments?
What about school principals who teachers and parents might have complained to but responded with “We have to teach it. We don’t have a choice.”
What about parents whose child might have complained but dismissed it?
What about students who thought something was not right but were either too afraid to speak or spoke and were silenced?
I wonder what might have happened in a unity school class with Ibo & Hausa students. Did they discuss the book? Did it affect the way they interacted?
I’d love to sit in on a focus-group discussion on this issue with students who read the book.
On this occasion, it was a student who spoke out about the contents of the book. This simply means that for the number of years this book has been on our national curriculum (not sure), teachers who could be parents or aunts & uncles have actually taught the content of this book in good faith? What is wrong with us?
This is the first time there seems to be some general uproar about it. For me, this is more of a concern than the book itself. What is it about us that makes it ok for us to accept abuse – of our minds, our bodies, our spaces, our rights, our lives?
The organization I lead launched an “Office of the Citizen” campaign earlier this year. This will be one of our case studies of what happens when citizens decided to get involved in the governing of their lives.
Zumji &Uchenna is one book. I’m pretty sure there are others. A review of our school curricula is definitely in order. Some school associations have petitioned the ministry and I look forward to the outcome.
These are books in our schools. What about our roads, health care facilities ….. The list goes on.
In closing, let me share with you one of my all-time favourite quotes.
“Of all the institutions of a democratic society, there’s none as formidable as an awakened and conscious citizenry.”
― Shehu Sani
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