The statement— to hide anything from Africans put it in a book, is always fresh in my mind. I find that Africans are just generally not knowledge, information or book enthusiasts.
This teasing statement, be it as it may, is the root of our problems as Africans in the 21st century. How so? Our society is an information society caressed by a knowledge based economy. In other words, knowledge is everything while information is power!
In the light of the fore going, if knowledge is truly everything and information is power in our globalised world, then Africans have nothing or are nothing if they are so averse to books, knowledge and information.
This exposition point to the exact reason why Africa has remained poor and powerless. They remain poor because they lack knowledge to drive economy and powerless because they lack information.
The African reading culture has been very low and keeps dwindling with the emergence of social media. Reading appetite among youths keep plummeting to an all time low whereas, books are the carries of information and knowledge –the most priced commodities in our century! Permit me dear friend, to introduce to you a dazzling Nigerian star; a young lady at the vanguard of reawakening reading and writing in Africa.
Meet Ms Ijeoma Aso, the managing director/chief executive of United Bank for Africa (UBA)Foundation. She is 37 years old and the only girl child of her parents. It would have pleased me to say categorically when this star exploded and started shining but a maxim in my local dialect states that, a fowl that is to be a cock, starts being so from the egg.
Ijeoma Aso was born brilliant, though the only girl, she was the most intelligent of the six children in the family. She remained perpetually on top of her class. The riches and wealth of her parents never got into her head nor distracted her from self development—thanks to her disciplinarian mother.
She was educated in Nigeria at Abia State University, where she studied Accountancy before her desire for social welfare took her to the United State of America, USA; to Fordham University where she enrolled in the Graduate School for Social Service for a Masters degree, exhuming excellence all the way.Let me tell you how she has been expanding Africa’s knowledge base, empowering and motivating Nigerian youths and Children.
As the Managing Director of UBA Foundation, she introduced the Read Africa Project in 2011, which was geared towards rekindling a reading habit in the hearts of African youths. During the inaugurating of the programme she said, “our children no longer read; their passion for reading informative and educative books is fast eroding. This is part of the ills we want to correct…these children are also distracted and challenged by the presence of social media—Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo and others.”
Her foundation embarked on distributing classic literature authored by African writers to young school children in Nigeria and beyond. Children were given books ranging from Chimamanda Adichie’s Purple Hibiscus and Ngugi Wa Thiong’o’s Weep Not Child among others.
The initiative also brought in the celebrated Kenyan writer, Ngugi Wa Thiong’o to interact with school children and motivate them to read and write. Her initiative also brought top bankers and business executives, including the Group Managing Director (GMD) of UBA plc to hold interactive sessions with school children to make them understand the power of reading and motivate them.
She says, “The idea is to leave a good impression and motivate the children, especially with our top management officers that the children look up to as role models.”
The children can easily aspire to be like them through hard work and reading to acquire more knowledge. Imagine you are 15, and the General Manager of one of Africa’s largest banks comes to give you a talk on reading and shares some of his experiences as a fifteen year old. It’s not something that will be easily forgotten you know.
As Thomas Hudson says, “Readers must read like writers in other to write like writers”. In carrying her campaign farther, she instituted an annual essay competition (UBA Foundation National Essay Competition) “to complement the Read Africa initiative.”
The debut entry attracted close to 1000 essays in 2011. In 2012, the essay contest attracted close to 3000 entries, an increase she said represented 300%. More amazing is that a visually impaired student was a part of the contest in 2012. Who knows how many more of our youths will be motivated to write this year?
Through her initiatives, thousands of children are coming to value reading and writing, and hundreds of thousands are getting motivated across Africa. She has brought together men of timbre and calibre to motivate youths and children to strive towards excellence. A star emits all its light and energy without restraints.
Ijeoma has utilised all her resources, strength and office to promote reading and writing in Africa without restraints, not to talk about her countless deeds in the health sector, environment and economic empowerment. Ijeoma is indeed a Nigerian Star.
You can send Ijeoma a mail via: IJ_ASO@YAHOO.COM
Expect more exceptional and life changing articles from the “I Know a Nigerian Star Competition”.
This “I Know A Nigerian Star” Story was submitted by…
Onah Nicodemus Chidera, a first year student of Electronics and Computer Technology at the university of calabar. Nicodemus is a young man who has an unflinching desire for success. And one of the 12 finalists in the prestigious 2012 UBA foundation annual essay contests. He is 19 years old.
You can send him a mail via: firstname.lastname@example.org