RECAP: #LiteracyInNigeria with Ayo Sogunro @ayosogunro

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Yesterday the 16th of September, we had Ayo Sogunro on our weekly tweetchat to share his insights about Literacy in Nigeria! We talked about Past efforts, current trend and the future of Literacy in Nigeria.

Govt. keeps information/knowledge to itself. We, the people, don’t know and we are not encouraged to know. We deserve a political system where we are functional. Where we citizens are invited to think. This literacy will not happen in our centralised structure. Centralism is command-based. Anti-contribution. ~ @ayosogunro

Running for more than an hour, the chat had a potential reach of Five Hundred Thousand plus and 1.1million total potential impressions.

Q1: Your profile is so robust, we love it 😉

As a practicing lawyer, how do you manage practicing law and writing?

Answer: Law practice pays bills; writing-in Nigeria-is more of a social service. There’s no friction between both. Also, my legal knowledge complements my socio-political commentary. Even my fiction benefits from this too. Ultimately, it comes down to a continuous balancing of personal goals, time and opportunities.

Q2: Looking at Nigeria’s Literacy rate pegged at 59.6% as at 2015 from 61.3% in 2010. What are the causes of this drop?

Answer: I’m not sure if there’s a standard study on this. But I can venture a theory based on my observations. To me, the high rate of illiteracy in Nigeria is an effect and cyclical cause of our social inequality. Through poor education policies and social inequality, we are growing ignorance, instead of knowledge. It’s a fact that the quality of public schools has deteriorated. Ignorance will breed more ignorance.

Govt. policies rarely favour the poor, and education is treated as an expense instead of a social investment.

Q3: In your article, ON CLASSTHINK AND THE “OTHER” NIGERIA, you noted that Nigeria needs restructuring of its sociopolitical system. How can this improve our literacy rate?

Answer: Where those affected by a policy have to contribute to its formation, knowledge will inevitably flourish. Our political system treats ordinary Nigerians like kids. We are so far removed from the decision centres.. Govt. keeps information/knowledge to itself. We, the people, don’t know and we are not encouraged to know. We deserve a political system where we are functional. Where we citizens are invited to think. This literacy will not happen in our centralised structure. Centralism is command-based. Anti-contribution.

Q4: Its been said that creative works emanating from Nigeria, all came from the Postmodernist movement (immediately after the Second World War 1945). The question then is, are Nigerian writings Post-modernist? Or are there other markers by which Nigerian Writings is been defined?

Answer: Postmodernism is a Western cultural concept that cannot be imported neatly into our own literary timeline. Yes, some writers, say Soyinka’s Interpreters or Teju Cole’s “Thief”, have seemingly postmodern tones, but to call them “postmodern” would be to sacrifice their cultural identity for a convenient terminology.

Quite frankly, I do not think we have fully defined the ideological classifications of Nigerian literature. For now, the usual ideological classification is based on our colonial history: pre-, colonial, and post-.

Q5: Reminiscing back to history, we’d produce the likes of Daniel O. Fagunwa, Chinua Achebe, Wole Soyinka, Cyprian Ekwensi and so on. Don’t you think the new generation of Nigerian authors need to really grow in reputation to meet up with the efforts of these past authors?

Answer: Yes, these are great writers, but they are not necessarily our best or better than new writers today… What they had was access to a 1950s-70s publishing industry that ensured our good writers had exposure. Since that period, our literary publishing industry has declined and given way to “List of Books” market.

To be a successful writer now, you have to write either for the Ministry of Education, or hope for an award.

Sales, which should help determine success for new authors, is hampered by the lack of a book industry.

Q6: Most new generation authors advocates a new direction in Nigerian literacy works to ensure healthy reading culture of new Nigerian literary/products, whats your view on this?

Answer: In the images that follow..

Q7: With the evolving rise in technology, teachers/authors roles are shifting from owners of information to facilitators and guides to learning. What does this trend mean for us?

Answer: We are lucky to have these new spaces. The internet has gatekeepers too, but still better than mass media. It’s easier to disseminate information without fearing censorship, or pandering to our patronage systems. It’s good for our “democracy” too. Free expression deepens debate and awareness; means better-behaved governments. Of course, these are not automatic. Agents of govt will try to maintain the status-quo. We must not give in.

Q8: Finally, what recommendations do you have as regards #LiteracyInNigeria and what works/projects are you working on you’d like Nigerians to know?

Answer: Here’s a paradox from Orwell’s “1984”. We need the masses to become conscious. How?

When majority of Nigerians are sufficiently literate to read this interview/chat, we have a chance for greatness. We can embark on a mass adult education campaign the way we arrange censuses and elections: nationwide.

Or we can “shift” the goal post, and stop using English as our principal language of education/government. Either case, mass literacy is class suicide for the political class. I doubt if they will implement these.

And as for me: I finished a book manuscript not long ago. But, not sure I want to publish another book yet. 🙂

Thanks so much to Ayo for sharing all of the awesome info and insights, and to everyone who participated in this chat!

Don’t forget to join us every Friday by 6pm (GMT+1) on Twitter.

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