“While property and material things could be taken away from someone, what you have in your mind cannot be taken away from you.” Ngugi wa Thiong’o.
With the aim of promoting the reading culture among young people across Africa the United Bank for Africa Plc (UBA) recently launched the second edition of the Read Africa Project.
Under the umbrella of the UBA Foundation, the project – which is a corporate and social responsibility initiative of the bank – will involve the distribution of a million copies of the novel “Weep Not Child” in all the 19 African countries where UBA has its branches, among others.
The event took place at the bank’s corporate headquarters in Marina Lagos. Top executives as well as staff members of the bank were present. The highpoint of the event was the presence of the author of the book “Weep Not Child”, renowned Kenyan writer Ngugi wa Thiong’o.
The Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director of UBA foundation, Ms Ijeoma Aso, said that UBA has proved that it is a pan-African global bank by carrying out the Read Africa project. She bemoaned the poor reading culture among the youth and stated that the bank implemented the idea of Read Africa to develop the continent’s capacity building, as that was the only way it could compete with other continents of the world.
“As the corporate social responsibility arm of the bank, our priority areas include special project, education, environment and economic empowerment. In this regard, we shall be distributing free copies of “Weep not Child” across the 19 African countries where we have our branches and beyond,” Ms. Aso said.
Also speaking at the event, Phillips Oduoza, The Chief Executive Officer and Group Managing Director of UBA, said the bank attaches so much priority to the initiative because it believes the reading culture has to be strengthened if African economic empowerment is to be achieved.
“To demonstrate how dear this initiative is to us, we all agreed to leave whatever banking activities we are engaged in to attend this event. We want to assist in economic empowerment of Africa because we are convinced that without resuscitating the reading culture in Africa, there would be no economic empowerment,” Oduoza said.
In this age of rapid technological advancement, where most young people would rather be with mobile gadgets and computers than books, Oduoza compared the time of his youth to the present day, and spoke about the distractions that young people today are surrounded with. “When we were growing up, we had little distractions; there was no internet, computer and the rest. We want to go back to the basics and get it right,” he said, “we want the youths to concentrate on their studies and not spend your time on the computer. Go back and take time to read. The adults should assist these children to read.”
He challenged the youths to imbibe the culture of reading, saying that they would only be able to get to the top through hard work and discipline.
Minister of Education, Prof. Rukayat Rufai, who was represented at the event by Nelly Ibukun-Oyewole, joined Oduoza in calling the students up to a higher challenge to embrace the culture of reading as it would stimulate them to be creative and innovative.
This project by the UBA Foundation is a laudable one as it will expose teenagers to the importance of reading; opening up their minds and creative abilities, and revealing to them new worlds, new people, and new cultures. As Ngugi wa Thiong’o said, “imagination is integral to our lives. Reading books nourishes our imagination.”
The books will be distributed to secondary schools by the UBA management staff and others who will mentor and hold reading sessions with school children.