Showing posts with label schools. Show all posts
Showing posts with label schools. Show all posts

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Movie of the Month: The First Grader

Media Roundtable Discussion with Justin Chadwick, Director of the Movie, The First Grader from George Wada on Vimeo.



Justin Chadwick's remarkable film The First Grader is our movie of the month and when you see it, you would be be thrilled to agree with our choice.



Read the synopsis for a start.

Kenya, 2003: A radio DJ announces that the Kenyan government is offering free primary school education to all. Maruge (OLIVER LITONDO), an 84 year-old villager, hears this and decides he wants to educate himself. Arriving at his local school, with a newspaper clipping about this change in policy, he meetsJane (NAOMIE HARRIS), the school’s principal, and expresses his desire to learn. Her colleague Alfred (ALFRED MUNYUA), in an effort to get rid of him, tells him all pupils need two pencils and an exercise book.



The next day, Maruge returns, telling Jane he wants to learn to read. He has a letter from the “Office of the President” that he wants to understand. Exasperated, she tells him the school already has too many pupils. Later that night, she tells her husband Charles (TONY KGOROGE) about Maruge. Cautious of his own position, working alongside the government in Nairobi, he advises her to fight the battles she can win.
After cutting his trousers and turning them into shorts, Maruge returns to the school again. While Jane tells the school inspector Mr. Kipruto (VUSI KUNENE)on the telephone that she currently has five children to a desk, when Maruge re-appears, she relents. Alfred is reluctant, yet Jane is defiant, claiming Kipruto is not the head of the school. Allowing Maruge into her class, she seats him near the front – after he admits his eyesight is not so good – and begins to teach him, and her other charges, how to write the alphabet.

Plagued by memories of his time in Kenya in 1953, when he fought with the Mau Mau against the British, it even impacts upon Maruge in class, when Alfred scolds him for not keeping his pencil sharp. Made to sharpen it, he breaks down as he recalls a time when the British tortured him – using a sharp pencil brutally thrust into his ear. Apologising to Jane, saying it won’t happen again, Maruge later educates his fellow pupils, patiently explains about the fight for land that he and other Mau Mau undertook and teaching them the word for ‘freedom’.



Resentment brews over Maruge’s education. At home, people shout that he should stay away from the school, while in the playground, covert photographs are taken of him. Soon enough, the story that an old man is going to school hits the radio airwaves. Kipruto arrives, furious that he has learnt in the press that Maruge is attending his school. Jane tells him that Maruge fought against the British. She later learns from Maruge that the same soldiers killed his family.

Desperate to keep Maruge in school, Jane calls Charles, but he advises her not to go over Kipruto’s head. She wilfully ignores him, visiting the head of the education board to plead Maruge’s case. Her protests fall on deaf ears and Maruge is made to attend an adult education centre, where he soon finds himself surrounded by people with no ambitions to learn. He goes to see Jane, telling her he must learn to read because he wants to be able to understand the letter he’s been sent. Refusing to go back to the adult education centre, Maruge nevertheless must say his goodbyes to the children. Yet Jane offers him a reprieve – as her teaching assistant.

As the story breaks, the press descends on the school, surrounding Jane and wanting to question Maruge. He tells the reporters that the power is in the pen.

Nevertheless, his presence in the school is beginning to cause anger amongst the parents of the young pupils. One mother confront Jane, accusing her of seeking fame and fortune from all the attention, while another father proclaims to Alfred that the school is spending too much time on Maruge. Again, Kipruto arrives with the school in chaos, telling Jane that her special pupil cannot stay and that plans are afoot for the government to compensate the Mau Mau.

Resolute, Jane decides to teach Maruge to read after school has finished – despite receiving threatening phone calls. A delegation of politicians arrive at the school, keen to cash in on the free publicity surrounding Maruge, while secretly demanding that Jane cut them in on any money she has received. Events begin to spiral - people attack the school with sticks while Charles receives an anonymous telephone call, noting his wife is now out of control. Jane soon receives a letter that she is to be transferred to a school 300 miles away. Charles tells her that events surrounding Maruge are tearing them apart, explaining that he’s received calls claiming she has been unfaithful.

Jane explains to Maruge that she is being transferred, and then undertakes an emotional goodbye to the children, who all bring her gifts. Meanwhile, Kipruto introduces the class’ new teacher. Enraged, the children padlock the school gate and throw missiles at her and Kipruto. Meanwhile, Maruge travels to Nairobi, heading to the Ministry of Education, where he confronts the board on behalf of Jane, showing them the scars he sustained as a young man tortured by the British.

Jane returns to the school, where Maruge is there to welcome her back. He wants her to read to him his letter, which explains he will be compensated for his time in the prison camps. As the film draws to a close, the radio DJ announces that Maruge – the Guinness Book of Records holder for the oldest person to go to primary school – will speak at the United Nations.


Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Nigeria: Where they do not read books

Nigeria is the most populous nation in Africa with over 150 million people of different ethnic groups of which the majorities are Hausas, Igbos and Yorubas.


Nigeria: Where they do not read books

Do you know that more Nigerians in Nigeria are no longer excited about reading and even writing?

Do you know that majority of the members of the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA) do not buy or read the books written by fellow members?

Do you know that majority of the Nigerian publishers of magazines do not buy or read the magazines published by other Nigerian publishers?

Do you know that none of the authors who won the much coveted Nigeria LNG Prize or other local prizes has become bestselling authors in Nigeria?

Do you know that Nigerians spend millions of dollars monthly on sms and most of the SMS/TXT messages are unprofitable gossip?

Do you know that poverty is not the cause of poor reading culture in Nigeria but intellectual illiteracy and intellectual hypocrisy?

Do you know that majority of youths in Nigeria do not know who is Ben Okri, the youngest winner of the Booker Prize in in 1991 at 32?


Ben Okri


I have seen the book gathering dust abandoned in-between files and other items on the table. The book has not been read for months. I have read my own copy immediately the author gave it to me and I reviewed it on Bookalleria, a literary blog. Bookalleria is one of the few Nigerian literary websites owned by writers who love books, but most of the Nigerian writers hardly visit them. They would rather visit the social gossip blogs or frequent their Facebook that does not have any feature for their writings. Majority of Nigerian writers should be blogging and not wasting quality time posting tissues of the issues of their minutiae on Facebook.

Nigerians now prefer to browse more on the Internet.


Blogging is another form of writing and sharpening the craft of writing as the blog offers more space to express your feeling, thoughts and share them with the rest of the world. Molara Wood, Myne White and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie are Nigerian writers with active blogs and a visit to any of these blogs is worth it, because they are filled with refreshing prose, poetry and drama written and posted by the authors and with interactive conversations with their readers. Unfortunately millions of Nigerians on Facebook and Twitter are ignorant of these blogs and have been missing the most original writings of these writers.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie


Over 800, 000 copies of the books of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie have been sold so far and translated into many languages, but less than 50, 000 copies of the bestselling books have been sold in her native Nigeria the most populous country in Africa with a population of over 150 million and over 20 million are graduates of tertiary institutions. Why have these millions failed to read the books of one of the most bestselling Nigerian writers? Intellectual laziness is common in Nigeria.



Majority of Nigerians do more talking than reading books.


Majority of the literate population only read the compulsory textbooks required to pass their compulsory examinations to acquire the paper qualifications they need to get their dream jobs. After getting these qualifications, they abandon their textbooks and rush into the rat race to catch up with the Joneses of their society.

The next publications they read are the daily newspapers, social gossip magazines and porn magazines. Then they go on Facebook to post the tidbits of their daily routines of their perishable pursuits. They spend hours chatting on the phone, gossiping and spreading rumours on the street, at home and in the workplace.

Many Nigerians love reading newspapers and society magazines and they are often seen crowding news vendors on the street.


Nigerians spend billions of naira on phone calls and text messages, so they cannot claim that they cannot afford to buy the few books written and published by Nigerian authors.

The increasing population of illiterates in Nigeria is caused the intellectual laziness of the majority who do not read books. Because how can people become literate when they hate to read and if they do not read, how can they write? So, the population of those who cannot read and write keeps on increasing daily. And how can they learn when they do not read? How much will they learn from sharing the badly written updates on their walls on Facebook or viewing TV comedies, reality shows or music videos that do not teach them how to read or write, but programmed to entertain more than to educate.


Nigerian pupils and students read for their studies and to pass examinations for the qualifications they need to get their dream jobs and to catch up with the Joneses in their rat race.


We are now embarrassed by appalling reports of mass failures recorded in the secondary school examinations and cases of graduates of tertiary schools who cannot write essays and are not better than graduates of high schools. One scholar said most of the universities are glorified secondary schools.


How can we revive the reading culture in Nigeria?

I remember the late 1970s and 1980s when hundreds of thousands of young and old people discussed and shared thrilling stories from the novels in the popular Macmillan’s Pacesetter series, Longman Drumbeat and Heinemann African Writers series.

“There were no GSM phones then,” said a friend.
“Mobile phones have not stopped American and Europeans from buying and reading over 600, 000 copies of the Purple Hibiscus and Half of a Yellow Sun written by our own Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie,” I said.

I also mentioned that millions of copies of the phenomenal Harry Potter novels of J. K. Rowling have been sold in developed countries where mobile phones and social network sites are not excuses for not reading books!

“Millions of Nigerians copy Western haute couture, music and surfing social network sites, but fail to copy their reading culture,” I said.
My friend was speechless.

Using computers should not stop Nigerians from reading books.


The intellectual disorientation of our youths can be corrected by using the same media of mobile phones and social network sites to make them change their negative attitude to reading. We can use hype to motivate and stimulate their intellectual traits and gradually they will appreciate reading as they see the awesome benefits of a vibrant reading culture.


If over 13, 000 copies of the novels of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie can be sold in Nigeria, and then more thousands can be sold when others are motivated and stimulated to join those who are enjoying the passion of reading her books and they will soon be adding more books on their reading list.


Now, 75 years later in an abundant society where people have laptops, cell phones, iPods and minds like empty rooms, I still plod along with books.
~ Harper Lee, author of "To Kill A Mockingbird" on May 7, 2006
.


~ By Ekenyerengozi Michael Chima

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