This is supposed to be the report of the presentation of an anthology of young poets and writers that took place in Kano during the week – but allow me to lament and complain and nag and ramble before I come to the meat of the discourse.
One of the tragedies that has befallen us as a people is that of deterioration of the reading culture in particular, and literary creativity in general. We in the North got more devastated when the elite established their own private schools from nursery to university, and left the 99% of the population – the masses – to wallow in the abject illiteracy of a poor, underfunded, dysfunctional government-neglected education system.
So, when recently a certain NYSC Community Development Service (CDS) Group called “Education and ICT” approached me to chair a project on regenerating creativity among secondary school students in Kano, at an aptly named Creative Writing Workshop, I was skeptical, to say the least. I was afraid that the project would be another “Karawa Borno Dawaki”, in the sense that perhaps it would be the children of the elite from posh private secondary schools that would be mentored, and the children of the poor left, again, to their designs (if they had any).
Reason being that nowadays most competitions – Mathematics Olympiad, Spelling Bees, Young Scientists, name them – are almost all the preserve of the children of the elite (among whom is, sadly, me). It is our children, the children of the elite, that now become what is ‘becomeable’ in this country. There’s always the argument that we are helpless, that being educated and able to afford it, one wouldn’t deprive their children the benefit of functional education, which is almost only available in for-profit private schools. But still beats me – and you, no? – when children of ALMOST ALL officials of Ministries of Education are NOT in the government schools they supervise, but in these private schools too.
Having said that, having let out that proletarian steam which, today, is largely academic without a single solution in sight, it must be said that the children should not be blamed, and neither should the parents – including me. Relief! But blameworthy areas abound; institutions, individuals, and especially governments all over the North. Let us give them the lion-share of this blame.
So, back in November last year, this crop of corps members held this workshop at my own alma mater – School for Arabic Studies (SAS), Kano, with children from both public (call them ‘government’) and private secondary schools. And lo and behold! What creativity! What an outpouring of intelligence among small children!
The children, of course, couldn’t have done it alone; they were mentored during that one-day workshop by the CDS leader Musa Yunus, who is himself a product of the famous Niger State creative tradition; CDS Secretary Fatima Bukar, a broadcast journalist; Maryam Gatawa of the Poets In Nigeria (PIN); writers Naseeba Babale, Bello Sagir and Badamasi Aliyu. If the students had taken the writing home to improve on it, we would have said the parents helped them by “padding” it; but everything was written on the day and at the workshop. Remarkable!
The workshop led to the publication of this anthology, “Scented Buds”, a book of fifty pages containing 26 poems and 16 prose works, which was presented at Rumfa College recently. It is the collection of the poems and short stories crafted by these young writers which we helped mentor that day at SAS. And it is the story of the day, after that long lament and rambling rant!
Of particular interest is the depiction of ‘Buds’ of the title with ‘Chicks’ on the cover page picture where the reader is met with chicks struggling to break out from their shells. Now, indeed, the corps members have brought these kids out from their shells. The chicks, as pictured on the cover page, look frail and lost, but with a mother-hen (the mentors) at hand, the ‘buds’ are safe.
The poems, even though simply written, exude thoughts that outweigh the age of these authors. The first poem in the collection, which is written by one Tijjani Ibrahim, a JSS2 student of SAS (no bias intended) is a beauty. He tells us the story of his friend, Musa, whom he calls “My Soyinka”, incidentally the title of his poem: “Musa is a friend/The best amongst all friends/He’s got a knack to learn/To read all books/Written with words/From page A to Z”. Now, I say, if Musa is as described by Tijjani, then I should meet Musa!
At the presentation were leading writers such as B.M. Dzukogi, prolific writer and founder of the famous Hilltop creative arts tradition and the leading light of the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA) who came all the way from Minna as Guest Speaker; Head of English at Bayero University, Kano, Dr. Amina Adamu; new ANA Kano leader Zahraddeen Kallah, the book reviewer; among many creative minds. Dzukogi encouraged the children to persevere and write more, and detailed the activities of the Niger State creative brotherhood which is world-renowned, with many teen authors already published.
In his welcome, CDS Leader Musa Yunusa stated that this experience showed him there is a lot of promise with kids and talents that could become a goldmine with consistent mentoring. He further said that some of the writings of these children ‘got him’. Not for anything, but for the fact that at their age they are conscious of happenings around them. He particularly mentioned the earlier Tijjani, Sadiya Suleiman of Millennium Model School, Latifa Sani Abdullahi and Aisha Ahmad Bukar of Floral International and AB Reward schools respectively. He said these last two girls got him weeping as they talked about death of a parent.
Scented Buds” said Musa, presents unique voices of young minds who hold a lot of promise in the realm of poetry and prose. It is an anthology of delicate poems and stories written on beautiful themes. The poetic styles are simple, but depict originality of voices from the inner rooms of creative, youthful minds. The collection justifies every purpose it was intended to fulfill, and will for a long while be cuddled by the teens and anybody that runs into it. For all lovers of poetry, this is simply a must-read!
The Youths' Digest is a specialized youth magazine geared toward entertaining, educating and informing the youths on various issues of interest that are of paramount importance to them and their wellbeing.