“If you want to hide something from a black person, put it in a book.”
This infamous quote is frowned upon by us Africans because it is stereotypical and simplifies an African. However, it echoes a degree of harsh truth especially in this generation, not only in Africa but the entire globe. This generation has acquainted itself with scrolling down their Facebook, Instagram and Twitter pages. The closest some come to reading is scanning through price tags, while those at the advanced level only read the ingredients of products they buy. This is not to say that youth nowadays never touch books, not at all. In fact, many are well acquainted with the likes of Sidney Sheldon. This is a major step, however, it is the plain truth that most of us are yet to reach a point where we read things that create a shift in how we approach the world.
I partly blame the education system which places so much emphasis on reading syllabus books. Those who were in the 8-4-4 system have been heard to lament about reading in class, reading outside of class, and reading when they wake up, reading before going to bed, and even during holidays. For 12 years, most students have been subjected to reading structured books in order to sit for exams and attain a place in a so-called national school, and what do they find there? More reading! Reading to help them go to University. Unfortunately, this reading is useless, to say the least, because it does not grow the student in any way because most only do it to pass a 90-minute test. What about the rest of their lives?
The education system overdoing and limiting reading to syllabus books makes many people abhor reading once they step out of the learning institutions. Emphasis on structured ‘educational’ reading has been placed in our early lives that we have come to overlook true reading that liberates or just relax the mind. Of course, books are not the only source of knowledge, but they deepen your understanding of many things but the problem lies when reading is contained for purpose of answering exam questions.
Some may argue that reading is just not for everyone. I disagree. If you are reading this, then reading is definitely for you. You don’t have to read every book on earth, but you can grab a book on a field you are interested in, be it sports, business, religion, history, technology, politics, culture or whatever. However, don’t mistake my advocacy to mean that you read books from far-fetched lands written by ‘not black people’ (yes, black people write). Speaking from what I know best, there are countless of African authors like Binyavanga Wainanina, Camara Laye, Chimamanda Adichie and platforms such as Story Moja that encourage African reading and writing. Besides, if you have no grasp of the world around you, how do you expect to change the entire world, with memes? I highly doubt.
This article was written by Carolyne Mutisya.