‘London Bridge’ is in reality beginning to fall especially in Nigeria’s educational sector as Lagos city rises with the official unveiling of Eko Poems: An Anthology of Nursery Rhymes written by pupils of public primary schools scattered all over the sprawling city and compiled by Award-winning broadcast journalist, Ola Awakan . From the island to the mainland to the outskirts of Lagos, over 300 entries of poems submitted by young, creative minds that put pen to paper to write about the past, detail the present, and envision a great future for the state reputed to be West Africa’s economic hub. These were whittled down to 63 classics which literary giant, Prof. Niyi Osundare hailed: ‘Lagos breathes and bubbles in these poems. Overall, a worthy and timely achievement.’
In his assertion of the great effort, the Chairman of Lagos State Universal Basic Education Board (LASUBEB), Hon. Wahab Alawiye-King noted, ‘It is remarkable that this compilation was done by our pupils for our pupils and for the generation yet unborn. I must also say that this project is the first-of-its kind in Nigeria. This project is part of the resolve of the Lagos State Government under Gov. Babajide Olusola Sanwo-olu to foster creative thinking among pupils by combining the platform for them to express themselves through rhymes that they can call their own.’
‘The era of having rhymes that depicts foreign nuances is gradually phasing out with collection of poems that reflects on our society, its local values and character. What we are saying is that our education must be relevant to socioeconomic, sociocultural, and sociopolitical affinity of the community. It is important to note that Eko Poems is a product of thoroughly selected writings from hundreds of entries received across all public primary schools in the state.’
Another high point of Hon. Alawiye-King’s speech was the consistency and uniformity on display by the pupils dressed in their various school uniforms as the Chairman asked them to engage in different songs, rhymes, and activities. This showed that the children were learning the same thing and no child is being left behind in the scheme of things across the state.
The Chairman of the education board heaped praises on the Creative Director and team of Artswax Communications, board members, the education secretaries, headteachers, and teachers that made the book project possible. He also presented certificates of participation to the pupils whose poems were selected for the book project.
On her part, the LASUBEB Board member in charge of co-curricular activities, Hon. Sherifat Abiodun Adedoyin promised about the first-of-its-kind project, ‘We will continue to do this. It will not be a one-time thing. It is not going to stop in English. We will do it in Yoruba’. She celebrated the primary school pupils all over Lagos for a job well done and praised their teachers for ‘piloting the students to do this great activity which have never been done before.’
The Creative Director of Artswax Communications, Ola Awakan who edited the book recalled how the book project started as a simple idea over 15 years ago. ‘It started many years ago as an undergraduate. As a student blessed with many ideas geared towards development, putting together poems for young minds was one that got a space in my diary but this never say the light of day until the proactive Chief Executive of Lagos State Universal Basic Education Board (LASUBEB) embraced the initiative immediately it was mentioned to him. I thank you and all members of the LASUBEB who contributed to make this project a success. This is after more than 15years.’
‘As a boy who grew up with my grandparents in the slums of Ajegunle, I got exposed to some level of creativity in my environment. I could draw, paint, dance, act, write and put together some words as poems. I didn’t relent because of a level of support from everyone around me although there was no opportunity of this magnitude for further exposure of my works. That is why I said I will do all it takes to give children and teenagers who are blessed with talents but do not have any way to amplify their voice.’
The multiple award-winning journalist, then, shared his expectations and hopes for the book. ‘There is no denying the fact that emotional outburst of the innocent, young minds in Lagos public primary schools as exemplified in this book is unquantifiable. This is another opportunity to start grooming the next generation of Prof. Niyi Osundare, Prof. Wole Soyinka, the late JP Clark, Odia Ofeimun, Akeem Lasisi, and the list is endless. The only way to encourage these poets further is by allowing their literary thoughts to go farther by way of making the book available in all schools so that we can have nursery rhymes with deep connection to our value system rather than the London Bridge that has been falling down, Twinkle Twinkle Little Stars, and many others that have graced our learning materials since.’
‘I feel this should be among the textbooks that will be recommended for students in our schools. I beseech individuals, corporate organizations, and government parastatals to support this vision. Let’s produce the first ever Eko nursery rhymes App’, Mr. Awakan said as he called for support.
On his part, the book reviewer, Mr. Makinde Adeniran, Chairman of Association of Theatre Arts Practitioners, Lagos chapter opined that dreams are essential to the reality that we live. He gave the charge ‘let them dream’ to the children as he thanked Ola Awakan for providing a platform to cultivate the right attitudes in children.
Members of the Gifted Steppers dance group led by Ihuoma Harrison brought life to the nursery rhymes with an electrifying display of dance and drama to project the anthology. Ayomide Oshodi, Jimoh Moridat, Orekoya Kehinde, and Stella Modinat were among the few young poets who recited their poems during the event.
The unveiling event had other board members and directors of LASUBEB present. These include Hon. Bayo Adefuye, board member, special projects; Mrs. Abimbola Vaughan, director at the co-curricular department; Mrs. Folashade Abass, director II of co-curricular activities; education secretaries from the various education districts; headteachers and teachers in many public primary schools.
Other dignitaries present include TVC’s Head of News and Current Affairs, Babajide Kolade Otitoju; Founder of Matters of Heritage Seye Omotade; the father of Ola Awakan, Alhaji Adeshina Awakan; Mrs. Bose Joseph; Mr Oladipupo MacJob and representatives of Parents Forum; and representatives of Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT).