Every child in Nigeria and indeed the world, deserves to have a teacher who will guide her into becoming the best version of herself, into discovering powerful aspects of herself, but we can’t achieve this if we do not equip our teachers with relevant resources needed to reach this goal. To explain why I have written Teaching Poetry: A Tool for Advocacy, I will be sharing two short essays of mine, formally published on Medium.
Literature Awakens and Empowers, February 23rd, 2018
“I’m not sure why people are so surprised that the students are rising up — we’ve been feeding them a steady diet of dystopian literature showing teens leading the charge for years. We have told teen girls they are empowered. What, you thought it was fiction? It was preparation.”
— Jennifer Ansbach, on the Parkland school shooting and students’ protest.
The quote above makes me so happy. Literature is such a powerful tool, hence the need to carefully select what students read in the classroom; hence the need to go for texts that awaken something in the hearts of students. I remember after we’d studied Lyddie by Katherine Paterson — a book about young female labourers who though from an impoverished background, stood up against poor working conditions and sexual harassment, my eleven- and twelve-year olds would cry ‘We’re going to protest’ at the slightest sense of injustice in the class. A girl even went as far as marching to the principal’s office to demand why the school isn’t replacing the broken swing at the playground.
Reading awakens and empowers. The Nigerian Educational Research and Development Council should remember this when prescribing literary texts to be studied in classrooms. For a nation like ours, it’s high time we trained children who are aware and conscious, students who are analytical, students who ask questions, students who will make better leaders. Books provide endless possibilities for these and more.
Abduction in Nigerian Schools: Where Is the Rage? March 26th, 2018
March for Our Lives is a student-led protest against school shootings which pushes for gun control in America. Placards strongly decrying the use of guns were displayed on the day of the protest and my favourite is that of Brittany Sinitch which read ‘I lost my classroom and students. My roster is not the same. My heart is not the same, DO SOMETHING.’
Brittany Sinitch is a 9th grade English teacher in America whom I follow on Instagram and whose creative teaching ideas inspire me until her school, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School became victim of the Parkland shooting on February 14th, 2018 with seventeen lives lost. After days of being offline, she resurfaced to describe the horror of trying to protect her kids, of gunshots by her window and how she and her students had to vacate their classroom forever. She’s back to school now, but her life as a teacher has definitely changed.
Following the Parkland shooting, teachers all over the US united online, creating awareness on the dangers of gun ownership and speaking up for gun control, for change. Hashtags like #ArmMeWith, launched by two teachers in other schools, Brittany Wheaton and Olivia Bertels, went viral and more protests by students – the survivors of the Parkland shooting – led to the formation of a gun-control advocacy group called Never Again MSD which led to the March For Our Lives demonstration held on Saturday, March 24th 2018 and attended by two million protesters in the US and more all over the world. Remember, this protest was initiated and led by students; young people under 18, fully backed by their teachers and community.
In Nigeria, we have had our own share of violence: Boko Haram bombings, Fulani Herdsmen killings, abduction of Chibok girls and most recently, Dapchi girls. There has been news of the Dapchi girls being released, with five reportedly dead and one still held captive for refusing to renounce her faith. Conspiracy theories are flying around as to whether or not the abduction was orchestrated with the subsequent release. But where is the rage? Why are teachers of the abducted girls not speaking? What is the school saying? What are schools all over Nigeria doing to stand in solidarity with the affected school? And the Ministry of Education? Do we even teach our students that their voices matter? Do we know that our voices matter? How are we so divided, so unconcerned, so powerless? How do we just move on?
We have failed ourselves, as Nigerians. We have failed. But we must raise our children differently. We, teachers, must teach our students differently. We must realise that the goal of education isn’t just to produce intellectuals. We must teach our students to be leaders, not just A-grade students. We must teach them to be aware and conscious. To ask questions. To fight. Only then can things begin to change.
For someone who grew up in great fear of poetry, I’d never have guessed that I will be writing a teaching guide on poetry. But I’ve seen the great fruit it yielded with my students – the important conversations it birthed, the reading, writing, speaking and listening skills we acquired. This guide is written in chapters, detailing the various steps and strategies I used and I hope they will bring about the same transformation in your students as they did in mine.