You might have heard about the story of Zumji and Uchenna which is being offered as part of the Nigerian curriculum for children in JSS. It has been shocking that what should be labelled as an adult story is being made available for children to read as part of required reading. I first became aware of it on someone’s instagram account – it was her child who mentioned the “bad book” she was reading to her mum.
The synopsis of the story refers to it as “an exciting play which ends in tragedy. It is the story of two passionate lovers from the ethnic divide whose marriage plan was disallowed on tribal grounds”. This appears harmless enough on the surface, however on closer investigation of the story it is full of slurs, sexually explicit language, encourages tribal differences and is just a raw book, no matter how you see it.
I spoke to a few schools and I got different comments such as “we do not allow such books in our school“, “such a book will not make it into our library” while some schools said “they are obligated to offer it to their JSS students because it is listed textbook” or “they will be sanctioned if they do not offer it“.
It turns out that the author of the book is Pierre Meunier, who was born in 1926 in the village of Grand in eastern France. He arrived Nigeria at the age of 22 and spent much of his time in Maiduguri and became a naturalised Nigerian citizen in 1978. He is known for his (often harsh) critique of Nigerian society.
The book is described as Love – Nigeria – Drama – however nowhere is this book called what it is – adult literature. The language is vulgar and there is not way this is information, language or sentiments that young children between ages 9 and 11 should be reading. I found a few JSS examination prep questions online and the questions do not warrant exposing children to this sort of language. Comprehension/literacy can be taught without exposure to such material.
The only question is will this uproar get to the relevant bodies and will this book be removed as one of the literature textbooks listed for JSS students?
The second question is what group of people decide on what texts are approved for schools? Is it the Ministry of Education? Relevant bodies please take note. We cannot expose our young minds to such material in the name of education.
For more detail you can visit BellaNaija for excerpts of the book and the lewd language.