By Taiye Olayemi
Lagos, Jan. 15, 2021 The Chief Executive Officer, I Read Afrika Foundation, Mr Bayode Treasures-Olawunmi, on Friday said that the dearth of public libraries in the country gave cause for concern.
Treasures-Olawunmi, organiser of the the annual Marathon Read Aloud contest, spoke in an interview with newsmen in Lagos.
He said that this year’s contest, holding from March 1 to March 20 in Lagos, was to draw attention of individuals and government at all levels to the problem, with a view to addressing it.
According to him, each local government ought to be equipped with a public library to enable students to walk in at will to study.
Treasures-Olawunmi said that the marathon reading contest, with the theme “Read to Build”, was also geared toward encouraging the reading culture among Nigerians generally.
He said that four Nigerians from four geopolitical zones would feature in the contest, with each participant reading for four hours, passing it to another like in a relay race for 24 hours, within 20 days, before the winner emerged.
“The contest will hold at the Herbert Macaulay Library, Yaba, Lagos, and all COVID-19 safety protocols will be observed.
“We have four participants, including me, from the North-East, South-West, South-South and South-East.
“Our aim is to erect libraries in each local government in the country, at least 774 libraries.
“This is huge; so, we will be asking the public to make donations toward it, in the course of the contest and after.
“That is the reason we have our theme as “Read to Build”, because we shall be building libraries across the nation, to ensure students easily gain access to knowledge.
“We cannot leave everything to the government; as citizens, we need to play our role and we will ensure educational programmes are organised periodically, to engage students in those libraries.
“With this, students and youths will have no time for drugs, cultism, rape, being depressed or engaging in any form of social vices,” he said.
Treasures-Olawunmi, who bagged the 2018 Guinness Book of Records in Marathon Reading Aloud contest, urged public and private school operators to ensure libraries were erected within their premises, to enhance students’ reading culture.
He said that the 2020 edition of the contest could not hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic, while that of 2019 was also unable to hold because of financial constraints.
The organiser, however, urged corporate organisations, philanthropists, educationists and Nigerians generally to give their support to the programme.
“Schools across the country ought to be equipped with functional libraries, loaded with internet connections, free Wi-Fi and some other modern learning aides, which will be beneficial to the visually- impaired and every category of persons,” he said.