The Dreams of Youths and the Nightmares of Reality: A Reading of Chinyere Chukwudi-Okeh’s “From the Crevices of Corps Hearts”.

The beautiful thing about art is in its ability to explore every facet of life and present them in the most appealing way. This can be said of Chinyere Chukwudi-Okeh’s book From the Crevices of Corps Hearts.  I personally have not read many books that talk about the National Youth Service experience the way this author is able to bring out stories about these experiences so well that people can relate to.

The Book is a collection of short stories, each carrying in it various meanings and many messages.  The first story for me is the one with less twists and plots but is an apt summary of the experiences of corps members who are stepping out of their comfort zone for the first time. The opening paragraph unfolds this as Zainab takes her first step into the real world:

“We little cherished our sheltered lives at the University, and wanted as much from life as it demanded of us. Before admission we had craved to be enclosed within these academic walls; now we yearned to wander free-the walls had suddenly become an obstruction. We could hardly wait to be garbed in Khaki and addressed with such monikers as” Corper Shun”…” (P.3).

Chinyere Okeh, Author of “From Crevices of Corps Hearts”

This encapsulates the desire of youths for freedom to be many things; to be recognized, to be seen and to be heard. The first story “Burdens and Bundles of Dreams” narrated by Zainab speaks of her entrance into a new world and its strangeness. It wasn’t much of a pleasant welcome as she felt the weight of her dreams crushed by the reality of filth, disorganisation and ugliness that characterized the environment she had to compulsorily enrol in as ‘prisoner’. “The only image that came to mind as we checked into the camp was that of prisoners on a queue, submitting their personal effects and sharp objects while being allocated to their cells…” (P.6).

Zainab like many others went in to serve her nation with so many strong feelings. “Amidst strong feelings of uncertainty, anxiety and a deep-seated passion to serve my nation, I carried my burdens and bundles, and set out on the much-awaited epic journey of national proportion.” (P.4). While some others like Ejiro and Ukali in the story “Mami Courage” went into this strange world with huge egos and full confidence (mostly derived from heavy alcohol consumption) that it would be just a walk in the park only to discover that nothing good really lasts long, at least by the standard of the Nigerian economy. Ejiro’s dream fell apart like the way he fell from the bike with a borrowed fake London suit on his way to get a job he thought would be a break from his harsh reality- joblessness.

For a character like Paulinus’ Baby in the story “Forests of Faeces and Chemistry”, Youth Service was a medium to explore sexuality, search deep into the recesses of her innermost desires and free herself from the shackles of the one who loved her but didn’t know how to express it. His constant show of love opened her up to hate and resentment. Youth Service was a means of finding meaning in the hands of mysterious strangers like Akwa-Ibom boy. The dream for an appealing romance ended in three weeks with her worst nightmare, Paulinus becoming what she wanted most. Three weeks of sweet eye-opening sex caused her to see what true love meant. It was not in sex. It was in loyalty.

Chinyere Chukwudi- Okeh brings out the inner conflicts of corps members; fears, dreams, hopes and weaves beautiful stories from them. Although, she spent a lot of energy trying to explain what she means rather than just allowing the reader unravel the meanings for himself/herself. For a first book, she deserves an applause for telling stories people easily forget. After all, it is just a one year exercise. However, she is able to show how this one year can make or mar the lives of many youths.

The book can also be seen as a clarion call for the government to step up its game in addressing the concerns of youth corps members. The awful state of the camps and terrible treatment of corps members by officials should be addressed. Unfortunately, this year for many corps members opened up with so many dreams but their reality is far from what they have ever imagined. Chukwudi-Okeh puts it succinctly in the first chapter of the book.

“As the days drew by, anxiety mounted upon uncertainty and made us wonder where our places of primary assignment would be. We all dreamt of good jobs and the corporate life. Every corps member desired to be well-posted but life is full of surprises and ironies. Not all graduates would find work in the oil industry, the banks… some would teach in villages, others would work without salary while others would be turned into errand boys and girls” (P.10).

A bit of organisation…

Terry was constantly unable to finish any activity she started. She would pick up her laptop and start something and just won’t finish it. This was causing her to lag behind in achieving her goals and this was worrisome. She had to seek counsel from her friend. Anna was one she could rely on. She called Anna one morning to tell her of her woes. “Anna, I just can’t get anything done on time or finish a task. It has become so bad that my company has placed me on probation.” She let out a cry of desperation.

Anna listened to her friend and tried to calm her down. “Terry, you will need to get organised. Just a look at your house and it shows how disorganised you can be. You should learn to have a schedule and ensure you stick with it.” Anna was being serious and Terry knew it. “Get your apartment cleaned!” Anna was her friend and had her best interest at heart. “I better get to it then.” Terry said with a smile.

So dear booklover, you can’t seem to concentrate on a book or you can’t finish one? It is as though your reading is quite problematic and quite an ordeal. I have been there. I used to have my books all scattered around that as soon as I picked one up, I was seeing another on the floor or my bedside that intrigued me and I would drop what I was reading previously. Reading just went in circles without me achieving anything.

You can overcome this by learning to organise your books. Organising your books helps you organise your reading and also helps you come up with a system for reading. You can start by categorizing your shelf. A shelf space can be for autobiographies, business books, fiction, motivational books etc. You can decide to go through each shelf space by picking a book from each shelf space for every month/week depending on your speed.

Write down all the books you have in your possession. Make sure you keep records of all your books and all those who borrow from you. In recording your books, be consistent and diligent about it. Details of your books should be recorded such as the year you got the book, the author’s name, the publisher, book condition etc. You will be amazed when all these come in handy. It would also be good to have a reader’s log where you record the books you have read. This helps you keep track of your reading progress.

The bottomline is that an organised library, helps organise your reading and helps make it more productive. You must do all within you to ensure that your library gets good care after all, they are your treasures.

The Deficient School.

Sidney Sheldon, a popular writer said “Libraries store the energy that fuels the imagination. They open windows to the world and inspire us to explore and achieve and contribute to improving our quality of life. Libraries change lives for the better.” I would not have captured this better. It is quite sad that this important building or section in a school structure is conveniently removed or unplanned for.

While some do have libraries, it is as empty as empty can be. It has become a place where students sit around idle or the school turns it to another storage space. This is quite sad and disheartening to say the least. I attribute this to a lot of factors like; lack of qualified personnels managing schools,  lack of funds and most importantly, reading is no longer put as priority in schools as the goal is just to get the kids to pass exams and leave.  

Every school must create an environment that prioritizes reading. Every school must take it as a responsibility to breed reading students. A school without a library is incomplete and largely deficient. Click To TweetEvery School has the responsibility to ensure that students fall in love with reading. I cannot deny the fact that there are factors that seem largely too difficult to surmount but I also strongly believe that when there is a will, there is always a way. 

The lackadaisical attitude by teachers, parents and school owners contribute to this failing in our school system. There is the move towards the E-library where books are available on online platforms. While I am a firm supporter in technological advancements, I am very positive that in Nigeria, many are still grappling with how to use these technologies and how to fund its development.

If the funds are available for E-Libraries, by all means, it should be pushed and developed. However, I am concerned about the child who does not have access to these technologies at home and for some reason can’t finish reading a book he started in school because he has no smart device. This is where the hard cover and touchable books come in. He can borrow from the library and return after use. The child can read outside school and that is the goal. Get the child to read beyond the four walls of school whether on a phone or on a ‘hand-held’ book. We can’t push back the traditional library just yet.

At Treasured Thoughts, we are committed to helping you breed  reading students that transcend school boundaries. If you need help with your school library, we will be glad to help. Contact us: academy@onomeonwah.com or fill the contact form below. Lets nourish the minds of your students.

The Dying Art of Storytelling.

Terry Tempest Williams said “Storytelling is the oldest form of education.” Well, for those who were born in the 40’s, 50’s to the 80’s and even during the pre-colonial era, had the opportunity to listen to parents, grandparents and elders tell them stories about famous legends and folktales. It was a means of passing down traditions and teaching morals. It was a way to relax from a stressful day and also a way communities and families bonded.

What does this have to do with reading? Shockingly, a lot! Storytelling is telling a story without the help of printed pages. However, with the development of books, people can actually read aloud from the book and imitate the actions and voices of characters therefore making the story more engaging. Storytelling is a unique way of stimulating the child’s imagination and that is key to training a child to be a good reader.

In reading, imagination is key to aiding understanding. When a child is listening to a story, he builds up the story in his mind following closely every word, sound and action. The child knows that if he misses out by not focusing on the story, he might miss a vital part of the story; therefore, causing him to struggle to fill in the gap. The need for this art to be revived cannot be overemphasised. Developing a strong listener is key to developing a strong reader. Click To Tweet Storytelling helps the child focus and pay attention to details which if carried into reading, the child will grow in leaps and bounds intellectually.

Furthermore, storytelling wets the appetite of the child to go in search of more stories. Where of course will he get the stories to feed that growing appetite? Your guess is as good as mine. BOOKS! Reading more stimulates the brain more.

Storytelling is a good way to bond with the kids. Storytelling also helps the child understand change of events and feel the emotions that go with it. A child can understand various emotions and it can be a good way to bring the child to understand that life is never static and always changes. There are so many vital lessons that children can learn when stories are told to them.

My concern is that the art of storytelling is dying. This is of course for a myriad of reasons. One of which, no teacher/tutor/parent seems to have the “time”. Another is that many reading tutors do not know how to tell a story. It is an art but it can be learnt. Slow and steady but consistently the art can be learned. First, the teacher has to put himself or herself in the place of the character. Laugh when the character laughs, cry if the character cries etc.

Voice range and pitch is key also. The teacher must learn to use her voice productively. Try practicing constantly with your voice. Drink lots of water but more importantly it comes with practice. I know you might say that our grandparents never had to try too hard, but I am sure they did not automatically become great storytellers in one day. With constant practice, you can be a great storyteller and you can awaken a deep desire in the children you work with to be great listeners and readers.

 

The Infertile Father: A Reading of Ayobami Adebayo’s Stay With Me.

I kept hearing a lot about this book Stay With Me by Ayobami Adebayo so much so that I just had to get the book. The book did not disappoint my expectations because it is beautifully written. It focuses on two characters, Akin and Yejide who got married and are full of love until it became difficult to have children. The story is written in first person narrative style to capture the characters thoughts and perspectives most especially intense feelings that arise between them as they face societal pressures and family pressures to have children.

Yejide is an accomplished hairstylist and Akin has a very good job but all of that seem inconsequential because there are no children in the house. Family pressure pushes Akin to marry another wife, Funmi. However, Yejide stays in the house and puts up with Funmi’s sarcastic tones and attitude. As the story progresses, Yejide gets pregnant but the bummer is the fact that the father of the child (and subsequently children) is Akin’s younger brother, Dotun. Shocking?

The twist is so good that Akin narrates that he actually asked Dotun to sleep with his wife because he could not father children. Talk about secrets! Well, I am not going to spill all there is in this book because I think you should get your copy.  The book will leave you gasping and like I did, shout at some point. So much drama, intrigues and tears too. Each page you turn has something beautiful written especially as the language navigates between English and Yoruba and captures the cultures well.

Ayobami Adebayo skillfully tells the story of most African women who suffer in the hands of society because they are unable to bear children. Sadly, no one ever thinks that the man has the problem. The woman is even conditioned not to think that the man might just be the problem. Yejide runs from prayer houses to Babalawos just so she can conceive. Since Akin was the only man she ever knew intimately, she never sensed that he was impotent. 

The author switches the narrative from the infertility ascribed to women to men. Yejide is a productive woman and fertile if we must add in her career as a hairstylist (she had a growing saloon business) but just a snag in one part of her life tags her as an incomplete woman. She goes through depression, pain and hurt because one area of her life didn’t work. Ayobami Adebayo tows the path of Lola Shoneyin (though in her own unique way) who writes a similar narrative in her book The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives. Shoneyin also brings this ‘infertile man’ concept in her book.

Ayobami Adebayo

In the end, Yejide’s marriage is broken. The pressure sinks the boat of her marriage even though all her children die except one (Rotimi) because of Sickle Cell disease; the damage to their hearts seem irreparable. Even though Akin is remorseful, it would seem it is too late. Akin raises the children as though they were his but he is ‘infertile’, he is unable to biologically father a child but does a beautiful job in raising Rotimi. Maybe, just maybe… fatherhood is not only determined by one’s biological ability to produce sperm. Thank you Ayobami Adebayo for a beautiful book!

Dear Teacher…

I write to tell you how valued you are and how important you are. The children you teach may not say it enough, your employers may never say it and even the society may not applaud your efforts enough. I write to tell you what you do not often hear. YOU ARE VALUED AND IMPORTANT. The world celebrates you on the 5th of October every year but once a year is not enough to let you know that your place in the society is key to its development. However, we must remind ourselves of some certain things.

Our job is not one to be taken lightly. We are like mini gods to our students because they see us as ‘know-it-all’. Hence, we are favoured by God to have the role of mentoring these kids and putting them in the right paths. Our job is so peculiar that one error may mar a child’s life or one good act may change the child’s life for the better. We can’t afford to be nonchalant. Our job does not neglect minute details. It is a job that is characterized by firmness, discipline and honesty.

We are the ones that help the children see who they really are and what they can be. We are their cheerleaders urging them to push boundaries and overcome the obstacles. We are firm in ensuring that the wrong remains wrong and the right is always right. We do not have time for frivolities because our job caters to lives. We are purposeful, driven and committed. Our job is reported in every home every evening. Hence, our profession is most monitored and supervised. Sometimes, our patience is tested, yet we must be calm and endure it because the prize is far glorious than the pain.

A child who is able to contribute to society positively, think independently and show moral uprightness is our prize and that far outweighs monetary rewards.

Hence, we strive. We work those lesson plans diligently. We take into consideration every student’s needs and plan for every single one of them. We stay up late at night planning classroom activities and extra-curricula activities but we don’t mind.

We are teachers and teaching is not just what we do, it is our life, our commitment, our mandate.

Sincerely yours,

A Committed Teacher.

Book Shopping!

Our Book Summer event has been a fantastic experience. The participants have been taught on how to build the reading culture, sustain the habit and be good writers. They have heard a lot especially from seasoned authors who gave their time to open their eyes to the world of books. Now that they have heard and learnt, it was time for them to show commitment by buying their own books. It was time for them to show that they indeed want to be readers. For these teenagers, most of them were novices. Some maybe walked past book shops without taking a second glance. But things have changed. They saved up and bought great books. 

This is what this event has been all about. It is the goal of Treasured Thoughts Academy to foster the love of reading among children and young people. It is important that the young generation picks up this habit which is necessary for self development and translates to national and intellectual growth. Rather than spend money on frivolities, it is important to invest in books. The knowledge you have is yours. Like we say in academic parlance, your knowledge is your intellectual property.

If you want something, commit your money to it too. It is amazing how some people want to read but won’t spend a penny buying at least a book. Books are expensive but there is always something you can afford which is what I taught the teens. In fact they bought books for as low as two hundred naira. Reading is an investment that pays off. The cost of ignorance is deadly. 

We want to use this medium to appreciate Bible Wonderland and Book City Ventures for accepting us. They made the experience worthwhile by familiarizing us with books, giving discounts for every purchase made and even gave refreshments. We are grateful that you see this vision and have supported it wholeheartedly.

We have more programmes lined up and coming up soon. If you want to be first to know of these events, please sign up here to receive necessary information.

 

All About Book Summer 2017!

It rained and poured on the first day we were to start the book summer programme yet it was as though the rain was sent to colour the event. It was indeed a great way to start. The programme started with a welcome address from the founder of Treasured Thoughts Academy and Miss Glory Maduagwu, Founder of Royalty Initiative (an organisation that promotes literacy also) began the main event by getting the teens into the ‘book mood’ though with a lot of fun.

It was quite exciting to hear them tell the the books they had read and also the books that they should have read and they had not read. Miss Glory accurately pointed them to the truth that they really weren’t doing well enough in terms of reading and most of them were resolute to be better. Also, very evident during this interaction were the notions and wrong perceptions many had about reading. By the end of the day, they saw the light.

Miss Arinola Okusi (a content writer and fashion designer) coloured the event more by going down into her childhood to present to the participants how her own journey in reading began. She had discovered a new word scallywag in the book Chike and the River written by Chinua Achebe. One day, she had an encounter with a bully (Miss Arinola doesn’t like bullies) and the bully began to rain insults on the other students. With fury, Miss Arinola called her a scallywag. A word that was strange among them then caused the bully to shrink and leave them in peace. However, Miss Arinola was soon sent to run an errand which would take her to the bully’s house. Your guess is as good as mine. She was frightened and began to prepare herself for the worse.

Well, when she got there, the bully told her father that Miss Arinola was the one who called her a scallywag. The father was amazed that a young girl could use that kind of word and asked where she had learnt to use the word. Miss Arinola then said she picked it up from a book. The man was amazed and turned to his own daughter and told her that rather than her reading like Arinola, she was busy with inconsequential things. Miss Arinola left the place telling herself she would devote her time to reading more often. Of course, she told us not to use books as a weapon for insults but rather the lesson was to see how reading makes us rise above our contemporaries.

This was just one of many of the stories and life experiences she shared with the teens. There were videos shown but one particularly was about a 14 year old girl who learnt how to read and cultivate the habit. She offered practical steps that can be taken to rise above our struggles in reading. There was also a slide presentation on how reading can help achieve one’s dream. We also had Mr Oluwaseun Abimbola (a writer extraordinaire) shed light on some other issues. In all, it was interesting, eye opening and informative. #day1wasawesome

 

 

 

Book Summer! A Summer with a Difference.

It’s Happening Soon!

Well, I am very pleased to announce our first book summer programme coming up in July. The Programme is geared towards fostering the love for reading in the hearts of young people though we are restricting this to those within the ages of 13-16 for the sake of uniformity and focus. The event will span through four saturdays in July (8th, 15th, 22nd and 29th) by 9am-11am. It promises to be an exciting time because each day is loaded with fun activities and sessions that will be handled by people with passion for reading and varying levels of expertise. The Programme will include: 

  • “Books Unleashed”. This would be a very expository session that will open their eyes to the world of books. It will let them know the immense beauty of books and why it is important to read. They get to know how to develop good reading habits, how to choose books and even review them. Also, we would have a facilitator who will share her journey in the world of books and how it has helped her reach her goals.
  • Character building. This session will teach on how books can develop our character. It would be interactive as we will be using the book we will be reading for the summer to learn various characters and behaviours we can imbibe to be better in our daily interactions. Also, group discussions, presentations and games will be part of the programme.
  • Create and Write: A facilitator who is an author will handle a session tagged “The Budding Writer” (You will know who our facilitators are shortly as we will run profiles of them on our facebook page https://web.facebook.com/TreasuredThots/). This will be a session they are exposed to the necessary skills for writing. After this session, we will put a notice out for them to write a short story. The best writer will have his story published on our website. Furthermore, they will learn how writing can also fetch them income.
  • Book Shopping:  It will be a visit to a bookstore where they will buy books for themselves. Please, parents should not give less than a thousand naira for this outing so they can buy something tangible. Let me stop here and let them find out the rest when they enroll. It won’t be a dull experience.

Participants will also be awarded with certificate of participation. However, we have slots for only thirty people (30). Please fill the form to reserve a space. However, space will be lost if payment is not made in 24 hours.

Please note that the venue will be at the conference room, Upper Room Baptist Church, 2a, Davies street, off Demurin street, Alapere, Ketu, Lagos. Payment of two thousand five hundred Naira (N2,500) should be made to ACCESS BANK, ONWAH ONOME, 0008153971. Please fill the form here if interested: https://goo.gl/forms/y5NsxkWbSUnrFJi22 

See you there!

A Little Push on the Inside.

People are motivated by a lot of things. Some are motivated by people around them or situations and some are motivated from the inside. Theirs is more intrinsic than it is extrinsic. I have counselled some people on how reading can change their lives and what I see is an immediate response to be better at reading but such changes are not long term which is really my goal. I desire to make people lifetime readers. So, what happened to all my motivational talks on the benefits of reading? Why did this person just bask in the euphoria for two weeks and is back to his old self?

I have come to understand that to be a lifetime reader, motivation must be intrinsic. Why? Lets first understand what I mean by intrinsic. Intrinsic motivation is based on internal factors and the reward of accomplishing such tasks is in the fact that is actually done. It is based on internal factors such as curiosity, self-determination and effort. Intrinsic motivation results in persistence which is the hallmark of a good reader.  A college student who derives more satisfaction knowing that he worked hard at studying to get an A would always keep getting A’s irrespective of different circumstances especially when you compare him with a student who strives for an A when there is an external reward attached to it. He will only be interested in that A when he knows that there just might be an extra allowance for the month. My point? Until you get to the point where you pick up a book just out of curiosity, need, desire and determination, you are a bit far from becoming an avid reader. Sometimes, I just read because I have grown to see it as necessary. My motivation is knowing that the knowledge I gain, I gain for myself and probably for the benefit of others. It is on my inside. 

Reading has numerous benefits and many people know this but what they lack is the intrinsic motivation to actually keep at it. People have to motivate themselves on the inside. I think that the rewards of reading which most times may not be as tangible as people want it is one reason why internal motivation is a problem. The reward of reading is a continuous build of knowledge that always come in handy in our walk in life. They are intangible but translates itself to tangible benefits which a lot of people do not have the patience to achieve. A sentence can change your whole perspective of life. Reading is never an exercise in futility. Click To Tweet

However, until you work up some little motivation on the inside of you, you will never hit the mark in your journey of reading. You just get tired along the way. While I am not ruling out extrinsic motivation which basically includes incentives that await the completion of a task, I am advocating for a deeper and more meaningful desire that will spring up from the inside and will push you to read even when there are no tangible incentives. But believe me, a little push on the inside will take you farther.