Poor economy, bane of reading culture -Varsity don
Former Head of Department of English Studies University of Port Harcourt Dr. Chinyelu Ojukwu, recently spoke on her literary and working career, as well as the challenge of working with her male colleagues as Head of Department in a University.
Ojukwu also shares her views on the need for women to be given 35 percent representation in political appointments, since they are not known to be as corrupt as men. She described those powerful women who have performed creditably at Federal level as ‘Noble Women’ who have made women proud. But she blamed parents who allow their children to speak English Language at the expense of their native languages, even in their villages.
Ojukwu also traced poor reading culture in the country to poor economy, noting that those who read only do so to pass examinations.
I am Dr. Chinyelu Ojukwu, I obtained my first degree in English /Theatre Arts from the University of Ibadan. I also obtained an M.A in English from the same University. Later I had a PhD in English from the University of Lagos, after which I started teaching in University of Port Harcourt till date. But I was Head of English Studies Department, from October 2006 – February 2009. I also served Anambra State Government as Special Assistant and Adviser to former Governor Ngige, and Governor Obi, on State Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy (SEEDS), and The New Partnership for Affair’s Development (NEPAD).
I wrote many plays, between 1981-1987 for TV production on NTA Channel 10, Lagos. The serials include The other side of Men, For Better for Worse, Play of the Week, Pot Pourri Avenue, Caravan of Life, Tele Movie, Acada Campus, and many others. I also acted in several episodes of a number of TV series. Memories and visions was my first published screenplay, which I wrote about two decades ago.
For creative writers, writers’ block is just a phase, it could be caused by stress, or lack of time to do creative works. So it usually comes when one is unable to think deeply.
No writer writes in a vacuum, the society provides the raw materials from which the writer spins his or her work. When you watch what is happening in your society, you watch the trend or movement of things, and you watch human beings behave after seeing all of these things. You may not like some and you may like to encourage some, hence you would put those things down in written form, and add new ideas to it. What you are doing is providing a mirror through which the society sees itself.
Nigerians don’t read
It is difficult to say that Nigerians don’t read, or majority of them don’t read. These days, I will attribute poor reading to economic problems in society. When a man is hungry, I don’t think that his immediate need would be books. I think his immediate need would be food, and when a man doesn’t have shelter over his head, his immediate need would be to work and get a roof over his head.
Today’s women as professionals
This is quite interesting. Women are working, and are doing well in their chosen professions. Gone are the days when women were full house wives who were busy cooking and procreating. But then women have also learnt these days to add something to their vocations, apart from staying at home producing children and raising them.
I think this is a step in the right direction, when women started coming out to participate in politics, initially it was very tough, and they went up to fifteen percent, but today many more are coming out. Today if government will make a policy of integrating women, and making women to take up to thirty five percent appointments that will be wonderful, that will be good for this nation.
English Language Compulsory in Schools
English is a universal Language, it’s a medium in most parts of the world, though there are other languages, such as French, German, etc. Today, we use English as a lingua Franca in Nigeria, that is our national language. Nigeria has many tribes and many languages, but the only language we can use as a medium of interaction remains the English Language, which is generally accepted for us to gain knowledge and read any subject at all.
So if we know that English is the only language by which you can communicate, then it should be made compulsory for the children in schools. You must have credit in English before you gain admission into the University, this is very important, at least for any course you want to study, the only medium you could handle it is English, so it remains important.
Between English and native languages
This bothers on the issue of Orientation. Some people feel that since English is the national language and the medium of communication in Nigeria, then their indigenous languages are no longer important. So they start teaching their children English from day one. But I think that it is a grievous mistake, that should actually be corrected.
The children should be taught their mother tongue, their native language. They should learn that alongside English Language, then the children would be able to speak the two languages effectively.. So the earlier they learnt their indigenous language the better for them.