Positioning children as the future
Growth, change and development were the key words of the sixth Macmillan Youth Literary Day. The event was themed ‘My Tomorrow, My Nigeria’ and was held at the Muson Centre, Onikan, Lagos on May, 31.
Speaking at the occasion, Bode Emmanuel, chairperson of Macmillan Nigeria publishers, affirmed that the choice of theme for the event was well thought out and was not a mere coincidence.
“The theme for today’s event is predicated on the conclusion that our youths are the future of tomorrow,” he stated. He therefore appealed to parents and teachers to show their “continued support in the development of our youths in the nation”.
Mr Emmanuel further noted that the event was an opportunity to create awareness on the problems facing youths and the society at large.
“Our literary event is aimed at re-orientating and informing our youths of a better and brighter Nigeria,” he said.
Noting the recent involvement of children in activities like President Goodluck Jonathan’s Inauguration ceremony, Mr Emmanuel stressed the need for children to be involved in the development of the country. He stated that this is part of the developing process of children and the country’s development can only take place through them as they represent the future.
“We believe that the growth and development of youths must be well articulated and addressed as fundamental issues,” he declared.
Agents of Change
The event was also a platform for children to express themselves through their various cultural dance performances. Ten schools including, Methodist Girls High School, Foucous Secondary School, Kings College, Holy Child College, Adrao International Secondary School, Queen’s College, Baptist Academy, Awodi Ora Secondary School, Ansar-ur-deen Senior High School and Command Day Secondary School participated in the dance presentations.
The performances satirised societal ills including bribery and corruption in the police force, embezzlement of government funds; violence, armed robbery and internet scam. The powerful display of culture and tradition also drew the attention of the audience to the need for political stability with free and fair elections; constant electricity; good education; employment opportunities for all graduates; equal rights for citizens and unity, irrespective of culture and tradition.
Footprint Dance Company, a group made up of youngsters, was not left out of the dance presentations as they thrilled their audience to a brilliant performance with the title, ‘Our Culture, Our tomorrow’.
Compere, Segun Adefila of the Crown Troupe of Africa, reiterated that children have a huge role to play in bringing about change in the society.
“It is very easy to blame the police, that they are not good. The people we are blaming went through the system, they also wore school uniforms like you,” he stated, adding that children should learn from the mistakes of the older generations work hard to be different.
Mr Adefila maintained that the messages passed across by the children’s presentations would bring about change.
“What we are doing is like binary reflections. We are looking at the mirror and we are saying we are going to do something about it,” he said.
Hope for the future
To begin her remarks, the chairperson of the occasion, Ajike Osanyin, of the Faculty of Education, broke into a Yoruba song that calls for Nigerian unity. She carried everyone along as they sang with lustre.
Commending the efforts of the students, she stated, “You can see creativity at its highest.”
“Literacy is defined as the ability to read, speak and count but we all know from the presentations that it is more than being able to read, speak and count. It is the ability to communicate,” she said, adding that the participants communicated with the audience through their performances.
According to her, each performance was a wakeup call to all, “to meet the challenges that have been presented, to try and harness our energy and creativity.”
Acknowledging the efforts of teachers who brought out the creative endeavours in the students, Osanyin noted, “the presentations are aimed at making our nation better.”
The panel of judges including Norbert Young, Steve James, Ben Tomoloju and Promise Ogochukwu judged each presentation on five major criteria, including, message, dialogue, choreography, space and costumes.
Steve James who spoke on behalf of the panel, explained that the essence of the cultural displays was to showcase the children’s identity. He likened children who have no knowledge of their culture to a man without a head.
“Our culture is our identity that is why we try to teach them our culture,” he said, expressing delight at the youngsters’ ability to display their culture during their performances.
Hope for change
In his vote of thanks, A.I. Adelekan, managing director of Macmillan Nigeria Publishers, echoed the comments made by Ms Osanyin and pointed out that from such presentations; there is indeed hope for change in the country.
“Beyond the dance, the songs, the clapping, is the message. The youths have spoken to us about what their fears are, what their inspirations are for their country,” he stated.
Mr Adelekan maintained that the performances were a “clear representation” of the country in areas including education, health, politics and provision of social amenities and basic infrastructures.
“We will as much as possible take some of these issues to stakeholders because the fears of our youths are in fact genuine fears,” he assured.
He further stated that the event was a platform to bring the fears of the children to the fore of policy making.
“Over the years we have continued to highlight these challenges. All we are doing is to stimulate and provide a platform for us to look back and march forward,” he said.
All the participating schools were presented with certificates and awards were presented to winners of the presentations. Queens College emerged first; two schools, Holy Child College and Adrao International Secondary school emerged second because of the keen competition and Kings College took third place.