Sunday, February 16, 2014

Study to Show Thyself Approved

About 10 days prior to our conference, Mr. David Onotu, Foundations Academy staff member, showed me some samples of children performing Spoken Word poetry from the internet. He was planning to introduce this art form to our students. I was very impressed with a South African girl who performed a powerful Spoken Word poem about Nelson Mandela. An idea dropped into my mind: "David, I want to you write a poem and perform it at our Teachers' Conference. I want it to be about education and about reading in particular."

And this is what he came up with:

Study to Show Thyself Approved

Some say
the map of Africa is a gun,
Nigeria is the trigger
and terrorism is the future...

I say
the map of Africa is a question mark,
Nigeria is the answer
and at Foundations Academy
we are bursting forth with solutions.

My older brother
grew up in a house where everything
he ever learnt, he learnt sitting in front of a TV screen.
Nollywood, Bollywood, Hollywood
atheism, pornography, violence.
And boastfully he would say he is on his way to become
king of street disciples, thieves, murderers, and outlaws.
I presume not a single book to turn a new page in his darkened heart.

I, on the other hand, grew up
surrounded with shelves holding more books than I could possibly read
or even flip through; through seven lifetimes:
Long Walk to Freedom--Nelson Mandela
My Experiment with Truth--Mahatma Gandhi
Life and Times of Martin Luther King Jr.
The Burden of Memory, The Muse of Forgiveness--Wole Soyinka
Things Fall Apart--Chinua Achebe
Americanah--Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Get a Life--Nadine Gordimer

Names like
Langston Hughes, Benjamin Franklin, Abraham Lincoln,
Haile Salasie, Ojukwu, Gowon, Kwameh Nkrumah,
CheGuevera, Chairman Mao, Barrack Obama, Plato, Aristotle
and every other name here listed in the registry
rushing through my mind like a whirlpool
my heart panting, fingers scribbling, feet racing
replying those who insist that there is no God.
The new age crusaders, those who would steal
the tongue from our children before they even learn to speak.
Father, mother, each one, teach one, for a wise man once said:
A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops. (Henry Brook Adams)
Whatever the cost of libraries, the price is cheap compared to that of an ignorant nation. (Walter Cronkite)
Every student can learn, just not on the same day or in the same way. (George Evans)
The beautiful thing about learning is that no one can take it away from you. (B.B. King)
Education is a better safeguard of liberty than a standing army. (Edward Everett)
Live as if you will die tomorrow; learn as if you were to live forever. Mahatma Gandhi
You can never be overdressed or overeducated. (Oscar Wilde)
The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page. Augustine of Hippo
When you know better, you do better. Maya Angelou
It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it. (Aristotle)
The things I want to know are in books. My best friend is the man who will get me a book I ain't read. (Abraham Lincoln)
The root of education is bitter but the fruit is sweet. (Aristotle)
He who opens a school door closes a prison. (Victor Hugo)

Let me leave you with a little piece from Mrs. Juliet and Dr. Korb, plus or minus Anna Ovonlen equal to Dr. Danny McCain:

In bringing stories to life all summed up in this question
a pupil once asked me. He said,
"Teacher, if I read books 24 hours of every day for 30 days = 12 months
Give or take summed up as 365 days
How great will I become?"

Greatness will come, and if greatness in itself is the endpoint
then indeed greater things than these shall we do.
Thus I urge you
read a book, read a book, read a book.
For in the world of books and much reading
we may pave righteous futures
for our children and their children yet to come.
Again I urge you
Study to show thyself approved.

David Onotu
1 February 2014
Foundations Academy Teachers' Conference

I read David's poem a day before the conference and liked it, but when I saw the live performance, it gave me goosebumps. As David called out the educational quotes, one of our students at the back of the hall shouted out the name of the person who said it. David coached the same student to slowly walk from the back of the hall, directly towards him, while earnestly asking the question, "Teacher, if I read books 24 hours of every day for 30 days = 12 months give or take summed up as 365 days, how great will I become?" And then David answered him. I guess I shouldn't have been surprised at the delivery considering that David has a degree in Theatre Arts. Well done, David!

1 comment:

Jill Stanish said...

What a marvelous piece! Did you by any chance record it? Seeing it done would be even better!