Zainab Adewale is a freelance journalist who believes in the act of using journalism to tell people's stories from the human-angle. With a keen interest in investigative reporting, human rights advocacy, and sustainable development, she loves to make an impact both within her local community and in society. Aside from writing, she enjoys exploring new places.
TSP/OSUN, NIGERIA: Reading comes easy for most children, but for 18-year-old Dauda Abdulhaleem, it’s a daily struggle. Despite his best efforts, he could only manage to read not more than ten pages before feeling defeated and discouraged.
He yearned to be released from the limitations of his reading difficulties, which had a significant detrimental effect on his academic performance, as each day went by. He wanted to discover the joy of reading.
Education experts have highlighted a variety of problems, such as poverty, a poor learning environment, a lack of attention to detail, and a lack of libraries or an insufficient number of them, that substantially limit the development of a reading culture in Nigeria. Each of them has particularly contributed to the demise of reading culture in one way or another.
After struggling for years, Abdulhaleem told The SolutionsPaper that he came across Kiishi Readers Club in October 2022. With their training, direction, and support, he was able to finally break through and develop reading confidence in just 5 months, which opened up a world of prospects for him.
“The reading club was first introduced to me by my English teacher when I was in Senior Secondary School Class 2. At first, I didn’t show interest because I thought it would affect my Arabic classes and other activities I enjoyed doing, but after being persuaded by my teacher, I decided to join. After five months and still counting with my consistency, I felt the impact as I can now read up to 50 pages of a book without getting distracted,” Abdulhaleem said with excitement on his face.
According to Abdulhaleem, his new reading habit was influenced by the hours he devoted to reading daily after coming across the literary movement. He added that his parents gave him their full support and encouraged him to study more after he told them about his dream to become a lawyer.
“Now I can read up to 50 pages of a book, and now I have the confidence to stand in front of my mates both at school and in the club to deliver speeches. Also, my writing skills have greatly improved. All appreciation goes to the club and the initiators.”
Ahmed Mustapha, 16, a student at Progressive Islamic and Arabic College, Ojukoto area, Kiishi Oyo State, joined the club in November 2022 and has advanced academically after the club made available to him reading materials. Mustapha, who also works as an apprentice in a barbershop, borrows school books or novels from the club which he reads when he has free time at the barbershop.
“Joining the club has helped me greatly, and my parents are happy about my progress in school. It gives me the chance to have group discussions with my friends without having anxiety. Every day after closing from school, I return to where I learned barbing, and on the weekends, I take my Arabic classes before going to the club venue,” Mustapha added.
Why Kiishi Readers Club was founded
Kiishi is located in Irepo local government area, Oyo state, southwestern Nigeria. Isiaq Yusuf, co-founder of the club referred to Kiishi community as an “ancient town with a metropolitan energy” in an interview with The SolutionsPaper.
“Although the community is well surrounded by primary and secondary schools and institutions, the curiosity of the students towards reading habits was dying away at a drastic rate [and] children only have access to a little education, so we looked for ways to provide a solution to the dying curiosity and get the students back on their feet to become avid readers shortly,” Yusuf narrated.
Kiishi Readers Club was co-founded by Soliu Eniola and Yusuf in September 2022 with the motivation to engage the children and students in Kiishi community and cultivate their reading, writing, and leadership skills.
The club collaborates with schools in the community to hold reading classes for its students and members on weekends to revive the habit of reading and also help them grow academically.
The club usually has its meeting every Saturday between 2:00 pm WAT and 5:00 pm WAT, at the Kiishi Community Grammar School. During the meeting, there is a book reading session, discussion session, and lectures.
Club members would pick up any book of their choice among the available ones and read it within a given time, after which they will discuss what they have assimilated and learned from the book. During the discussion and lectures session, the club founders teach club members further benefits of reading and what they can achieve through the art of reading.
Club members are also at liberty to borrow books from the club but have to read and return them within two weeks.
“We chose to take this up to assist the youngsters, and we see it as the best method to help the community grow,” Yusuf continued, saying they only schedule reading sessions for the students on weekends because they are generally more involved in extracurricular activities now than they were in the past.
“Some of them already have a lot on their plates: they attend school, take Arabic classes after school, go with their parents to the market, and some are learning crafts. We chose to make it a weekend program because we didn’t want the actions of the club to interfere with any of these.”
The club has extended to six schools in Kiishi community including Progressive Islamic and Arabic College, Ansar-Ud-Deen Society High School, Kiishi Community Grammar School, Mushtaq Muslim Academy, and Olanipekun Memorial College.
Membership in the club is open for both the students and all reading-loving minds in the community. However, The SolutionsPaper understands that only children/students are incorporated in the physical meeting while other youths from the community are trained on the club’s WhatsApp platform between 8:30 pm WAT – 9:30 pm WAT daily.
“We believe that we can only get it right if we take this club to the grassroots level. As such, the club is working on school visits to talk with primary and secondary school students about the importance of reading,” Yusuf said.
Spurring Academic Growth for Students
Ahmodu Toafeeq, an English teacher at Progressive Islamic Arabic College, one of the schools in collaboration with the club, told The SolutionsPaper that the club’s impact on the lives of the students is undeniable and he encouraged his students to attend the club to understand the importance of reading.
“When the club was introduced to Progressive Islamic College, some colleagues did some research and found out that the club was reliable. From there, I introduced the club to my students, and most of them who attended are doing great in their academics.”
“We work alongside the parents because we know the importance of the club. Some of them cannot write or read well, and they have also developed the art of public speaking. As a tutor, we are also trying our best to ensure we teach them all they need to know, and the intervention of this movement has made the work easier for us,” Toafeeq added.
An old beneficiary of the club, Yusuff Abdulwakeel, who is currently studying Business Administration at Bayero University Kano, said the club is supporting readers who have a passion to read but don’t have access to books.
“The experience I had at the club is something I won’t quickly forget. It improved my ability to conduct research, gave me more confidence in my writing, and helped me cope better with my career as a teacher. My critical and creative reasoning improved as a result.”
“My reading and writing abilities were encouraged and enhanced. It allows me to support young people in finding and developing their skills. I was able to learn more from the books I found after it assisted me in finding a variety of them.”
Like Abdulhaleem, 14 years old Hamzat Soffiyayat who attends the Muslim Academy in the Ojukoto area of Kiishi community joined the club in December 2022 and her reading and writing skills experienced a new turnaround.
“It was my friends who invited me to join the club. At first, I was reluctant because I felt it would be time-wasting since I’m also learning in school, but after being persuaded, I informed my parents about joining, and since then, I have enjoyed every time spent at the club because it feels like I’m challenging myself to do something challenging in terms of public speaking.
“I began to interact freely with other colleagues, both in school and during our reading sessions. Another thing I learned is time management. I learned how to manage my time despite having things I do for my parents at home on weekends. It has been a wonderful experience for me, and I must say that our tutors, Mr. Soliu and Mr. Isaaq, are doing a good job for us,” Soffiyayat told The SolutionsPaper.
Yusuf explained that the acceptance of the club by both parents and schools in the community was one of the challenges the movement faced when starting.
“Many students after school hours are engaged in activities such as hawking and vocational training as well, which is making it a little bit difficult to get parents to fully support the club’s program by unleashing them to the movement in absolute submissiveness,” Yusuf said.
Yusuf also mentioned the financial insufficiency faced by the club in its quest to get enough books for its members as a challenge. He noted that the club is being financed solely by himself and the co-founder, Eniola although they do solicit and receive assistance from community figures.
For plans, Yusuf told The SolutionsPaper that the club plans to construct a standard mini library for the entire student populace in the community.
“We have planned to ensure that the tentacles of the club and its operation be extended across all government schools, both primary and secondary in Kishi Community to boost effective reading and breed future leaders through it in oratory and writing skills.”
Editor: Chinonso Kenneth
Sub-editor: Precious Ewuji