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Why Africans ‘Don’t’ Read

Why Africans ‘Don’t’ Read

‘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 us. Although this statement is likely to be written by a racist bigot, it echoes a degree of harsh truth, especially in our generation. The Y-generation has acquainted themselves with scrolling down their Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter pages. The closest some come to reading is scanning through price tags, while those in the advanced level only read the ingredients of products they buy. This is not to say that youths 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 plain truth that most of us are yet to reach a point where we read things that create a paradigm shift in how we approach the world.

Emphasis on structured ‘educational’ reading has been placed in our early lives that we overlook true reading that liberates or just relaxes the mind. Partly to blame is the education system which stresses on reading syllabus books only.  Those who were in the 8-4-4 system have been heard to lament about reading in class, reading outside 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, as 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.  

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 one is to read books from far-fetched lands written by ‘not black people’ (yes, black people write). Speaking from what I know best, there are countless African authors like Binyavanga Wainanina, Camara Laye, Chimamanda Adichie, and platforms such as Storymoja that encourage African 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 by Carolyne Mutisya was first published on www.capitalfm.co.ke/campus

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