On Wednesday, the crusade which began in June 2017 to ban certain literature books deemed to be “immoral” from required reading in secondary schools finally reached the National Assembly.
Resolution: Following a motion by Hon. Mohammed Mahmud, the House of Representatives passed a resolution:
- Withdrawing the offending books from the curriculum immediately;
- Urging the FG to sanction the officials responsible for approving such immoral textbooks; and
- Mandating its Committee on Basic Education and Services to invite the registrars of JAMB and NECO as well as the Minister of Education to explain how the alleged “immoral textbooks” managed to be recommended for reading in Junior and Senior Secondary Schools in the country.
The beginning: In early June 2017, a school based in Lagos, Crescent College, wrote to the Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, over the “immoral content in our curricula.” Signed by the Head of Crescent Schools, Mrs. Fatima Mahmud-Oyekan, and the Chairman, Parent-Teacher Association, Alhaji Aliyu Gudaji, the school argued that:
- Two junior secondary literature textbooks fall short of moral standards.
- The two books – The Precious Child, by Queen O. Okweshine, and The Tears of a Bride by Oyekunle Oyedeji – are nothing but a means of glamorising acts of indecency such as violence, kidnapping, rape, girl defilement and sexualisation of knowledge.
- Reading the immoral textbooks exposes the unsuspecting minds of 10-12 year olds to “amorous and deviant practices that can in turn breed rapists, cultists, homosexuals and kidnappers in youngsters.”
- The “prevalence of cases of rape among secondary students in recent times cannot be unconnected with the urge to experiment with the experience they have from such books.”
Oh my God, those books must be terrible: Books which can breed rapists, kidnappers and homosexuals (God-forbid) in kids must be VERY TERRIBLE, right? So what sections contained the immoral verses? The school shared some examples in its letter.
- From Page 91 of The Tears of a Bride: “Araba comes out of his house bare to the waist and readjusts his wrapper. Romoke cries weakly as she comes out from the house holding her wrapper to her chest to prevent it from falling off her body. Araba has just defiled her.”
- From Page 10 of same book: “Lights open on Akofe and Ajibike lying criss-cross on the ground with Ajibike’s head on Akofe’s chest and his arms wrapped around her. Akofe’s eyes are closed as he savours the splendour of the moment. His index finger runs through her body, drawing imaginary lines with its tip. Ajibike curiously raises her head from his chest to look into his face, only to discover a wide smile is playing therein.”
- From Page 86 of same book: “Tell them also that the breast of a woman in a man’s mouth tastes better than the best of palm wine.”
- From Page 56 of The Precious Child: “If only I can find a sweet 16 to cool me down. But these eaglets with their fronts and backs fully set. Wao, those tender breasts that gyrate in provocating rhythm which seem to say (pushes his chest forward) ‘I swear to God.’”
Those four excerpts are the evidence of scenes in these “immoral textbooks” that can breed rapists, kidnappers, and homosexuals, according to the campaigners.
Note that the first example above talks about rape, not in a positive light, but in terms of a “defilement.” That is not something to shy away from – it is something which parents need to have honest conversations with their kids about especially as sexual predators exist everywhere including in the homes.
Question: In a country where a senator in the national assembly got away with marrying a 13-year old girl, why is talking about these issues in a class, coordinated by a trained instructor such a bad thing? At a time when seven-year olds have access to the internet and pornography, and where these things are discussed in movies and music (not in the controlled way these books have them), why exactly is the sex education such a taboo?
This quick recourse to banning so-called “immoral textbooks” displays a bit of ignorance about the realities which young people face in today’s world, leaving them unprepared or seeking answers from dangerous places. Reading and talking about these issues in a critical and safe space with a trusted teacher is not shameful but gives young people the relief that others face some of the issues they face and say some of the things they say.
Meanwhile: One other textbook recommended by JAMB which Crescent College had issues with was “In Dependence” by Sarah Manyika. The school’s issue was that the author described her book as “the story of two people struggling to find themselves and each other – a story of passion and idealism, courage and betrayal, and the universal desire to fall madly, deep, in love.” The description and its depictions in the book were considered “morally distasteful.” Note that this book is to be read by students in Senior Secondary Schools.
The new JAMB Registrar, Ishaq Oloyede, agrees with the Crescent College. He said he wasn’t the JAMB boss when the agreement was signed with the publishers, but he opposes it “on the ground that it lacked the basic moral and ethical standards for students.”