Media Versus Educational Institutions

Many things have been said about media, its relation with education and the institutions of education, as well as co-action between them. But the point which has been rarely and scarcely stressed upon, and requires to be emphasized with the force and vigour it deserves, is that the media by itself is the most powerful medium of education at large. When I talk about media, I mean it to be inclusive of both the print-media and electronic media. There is an umbilical relation between the media and educational institutions, as both are deeply correlated, collateral as well as complementary to each other.

Education on Air

So far as the print-media (news papers/magazines/periodicals/journals) is concerned, it has, somehow, been playing its role in educating the people positively to some extent, but unfortunately, the electronic media (radio, television etc.,) is not delivering the goods in this respect. Being a medium of infotainment, it is, in fact, supposed to be a means of not merely educating the masses on a much wider scale, but also a tool of promoting and developing the national ethos, culture, moral values, ethics and social manners on the nation-wide scale.

Media is the most powerful instrument of not only spreading, inculcating and ingraining the values and traditions among our new generation, but also strengthening them in the mindset of the old one. It is the government’ responsibility to use electronic media for the above-mentioned purposes and it has the powers, necessary resources and machinery to do so, but, alas, it has, until now, failed to take any concrete step in the direction. Government is therefore well-advised to press its machinery to use the centrally-administered media as a tool to provide education on air.

Media’s role compared with formal Institutions of Educations

It is an irrefutable fact that the media can prove an effective and useful tool in providing education to the masses. In this respect, media’s role starts exactly from where the role being played by the formal institutions such as schools, colleges and universities comes to an end. The media has not merely an obligation to inform the people what has happened, and what is happening in the surroundings, in the society, across the country and around the world, but it has also a bounden duty to enlighten the masses what actually must have been there and, in deed, what now must be there under the sky.

Art, Culture and Literature

The media has another function to perform and that is to take care of social manners and ethical values among the people, to preserve and promote them besides developing indigenous art, culture and literature.

A few words about literature: whatever is written is simply defined as literature. However, whatever is written with an accuracy of the language and punctuation of the grammar is, by definition, termed to be the “classic literature,” whereas whatever is printed, published, broadcast and telecast by the print-electronic media is nothing but the “literature in haste.” And this exactly is the domain of media.

Reverse Gear

Now the question arises what is the media doing now-a-days? Hasn’t it put the vehicle on the reverse gear and isn’t driving it in quite opposite direction? Is the media playing its role, doing its functions in any respect honestly and sincerely? Is it delivering the goods in letters and in spirit? The answer is, alas, a horrible “No.”

It is extremely deplorable, disappointing and sorry state affairs to see that in the name of art and culture, the Western art and culture are being promoted and boosted, and on the contrary, the indigenous arts and cultures, are, unfortunately, being weakened and relegated day by day, throwing the young generation straightaway into the “lap of the Western Culture” on a wholesale scale.

Failure of the Educational System

The role being played by our formal educational establishments is even worse. Our system of education is still based on some elements of the British policy- getting rid of which the sooner, is the better because they are, on the one hand, laying negative and harmful impact on the emerging talents of our promising students and on the other, extirpating the very roots of Indian culture. Despite having gained geo-political freedom, we are yet to be able to get ourselves released from the yoke of mental- intellectual bondage of our Anglo-American masters in certain spheres of life, especially in economy, science and technology. In the name of imparting education, our students are virtually made “the book-addicts”, rather turned into the “book-worms.” Instead of pushing ahead and encouraging them to pursue and develop their instinctively creative talents and skills, the students are, unfortunately, being encouraged to strictly go by the books from the beginning to the end, throughout their lives. Main emphasis is on theory and not on practice.

Consequently, now the nation India can boast of producing the best “imitators” in almost every sphere of life but is not in a position to proudly claim to have produced any original thinkers and scientists except Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam, S.Chandrashekher, Hargobind Khurana, Amartya Sen, Venkatramana Ramakrshnan and a few other exceptions in recent history. Even a handful of those born with inner creative talents and high skills, are compelled to go abroad due to the lack of necessary facilities, proper incentives, lucrative compensations and encouragement in the country. In the field of science and technology, we are still dependent on the highly developed Western nations to a large extent, and India’s glory has been lost somewhere in the dustbin of history.

Total Overhauling needed

Unless the whole structure of the polity, which has been reduced to an abominably, abhorrently stinking rot, is overhauled and restructured, policies putting the educational system on a sound footing, and guiding the media towards its real functions, are framed afresh and implemented vigorously and vehemently, as well as suitable amendments are incorporated in the relevant portions of the Constitution in order to enact and enforce necessary laws for the purposes, the situation will not improve and India will not emerge as a totally free and independent nation in every field of life, in the truest sense of the term. In respect of media, it is more essential and imperative, especially in view of the growing greed to earn as much money as possible, even if it is at the expense of the barest minimum requisites of the common people. That the greed has overshadowed the super values and lofty human sentiments of love, affection, compassion, sympathy, honesty, sincerity and above all — the spirit of sacrifice — has been brought to the fore by the greedy, selfish and self-serving T.V. journalists/photographers, who, while reporting, always tend to prefer capturing images of even the bleeding and dying persons attacked by miscreants or injured in road accidents, to going to their rescue. An instance pointing out to the bitter truth was reported from Chennai, where a police officer attacked while on his motorbike by unidentified assailants, bled to death because of delayed medical attention on January 8, 2010. A convoy of ministers passed by, stopped, looked at the sub-inspector of Tamil Nadu police, R. Vetrivel lay profusely bleeding on the road, and simply passed off. None of them felt it necessary to take any action. On the other hand, a T.V. cameraman was so keen to capture the images that he, too, did not consider it necessary to take trouble of going to his aid.

The images were flashed by several TV news channels including 9 O’CLOCK NEWS. Although, the channels’ aim was to wag a finger at the ministers, who impotently stood around doing nothing, the same charge could be leveled on the cameraman, who was busy filming the scene, instead of rushing the man to the hospital. However, we can put the same question to ourselves; how many times do we stop when we witness a road accident? Is it fair on our part to be quick to shake our heads at the ministers, when many of us might not have stopped for any Vetrivel either? What does such an occasion demand from a journalist, who happens to be a human being? Should he shoot the event and pass off or physically intervene in it?

Arguments or Lame Excuses?

Argument goes like this that journalists’ job is just to report what happens, as clearly as possible. The journalist is like a doctor in the emergency room, strictly in accordance with one analogy- one that is iconic given the images of dying Vetrivel. One sees a lot of suffering, but it is more important to put one’s feeling aside and just work on the story. Many journalists, the world over-feel, think and act in the same fashion – especially those covering wars and unprecedented disasters. A journalist should never forget that he is a human being first and a professional last. Apart from reason and intellect, super human sentiments of love, mercy, sympathy, mutual consideration and cooperation, going to the rescue of helpless and extending a helping hand to the needy in distress, are the attributes that distinguish human beings from animals, and human nature demands that these qualities should never, in any case, be dominated by greed to earn money at the cost of lives, and the selfish urge to go ahead in the race of sweeping into the net all sorts of comfort and luxury of mundane life for the sake of the self and kith and kin, pushing behind, and sometimes, treading over others in the race.

Ruthless Machines

The tremendous greed for money has virtually turned the professionals into the “ruthless machines,” and journalists are no exception. By preferring to capture footages, the T.V. photographer, in fact, proved his mercilessness. It is, of course, the economic conditions that determine how images are produced and broadcast for the viewers.

We are so accustomed to having our television journalists dramatize the news, and act like drama-mongers that they have lost our trust. Almost every televised event seems like infotainment, a soap opera, or trick for ratings. In this context, it is very difficult not to see almost every thing the news media does with an intensely suspicious eye. The panel discussions over regulation on television have been time and again raised as a way to control the runaway speed of television news, but this doesn’t seem to address the more intricate problem.

Problems Hindering The Development Of Sierra Leone Literature

There are only too many problems hindering the growth of Sierra Leonean literature. This includes the lack of a publishing house. As a result only those lucky and resilient enough to persist until they are noticed by a multi-national publishing firm and thus becoming published, survive as writers. There is also a lack of other alternative outlets such as literary journals or magazines. Apart from the fact that newspapers do not usually provide space for creative writing, they do very little to stimulate the production and growth of literature. When works get published by Sierra Leoneans they seldom get much attention in the press.

Another problem facing the literary art is the total lack of support from the government for literary activities. No support is given to efforts at creating literary outlets such as journals and magazines. A most glaring example of this unsupportive climate is seen in the Sierra Leone Association of Writers and Illustration having to subsist on only subscription with no government subvention whatsoever until its final demise.

The inhibiting influence of the acute shortage of electricity supply cannot be over emphasized. What I wish to underscore is that blackout and writing make uneasy bedfellows. Therefore in such a scenario writers wither, for they have to change their writing schedules and habits or perish.

The shortage, or expensiveness of stationary which are basic materials for the writer is another inhibiting factor. Stationary I think ranges from machineries such as typewriters to pens, pencils, paper, carbon and envelopes. Then with the completion of a manuscript comes the problem of dispatching it to a publisher. As most publications are based abroad, writers are left to bear the soaring postal rates. This is because with the present commercialization, the post office has ceased to be a social service. The widespread acceptance of submissions by e-mails is now minimizing this problem. As for me I find the convenience of e-mail so much easier, faster and cheaper that I have virtually forgotten about snail mails.

Books and other writing materials continue to be receiving heavy duties. Levies on books and other basic writing materials should be abolished if developments of the literature of Sierra Leone should be nurtured and this should be a consistent policy of government. Books and materials for their production should be free from all taxes and duties. There should now be a dramatic break from the past negative attitude to literacy and literature, In the past this has not been so. As a result there ihas been an ever diminishing demand for booksellers to order books except those whose demand is high as a result of being required at schools. Now the situation is much more desperate as indicated in another article I wrote ‘The Strruggle of the Book in Sierra Leone.’ which was published in FOCUS on International Library and Information Work.

A related problem is the negative effect of the recession on the once thriving bookshops. Sawyer’s bookshop is of course no longer there. The Fourah Bay College Bookshop closed several years ago leaving no bookshop to service the book demands of a whole college. The Fourah Bay College Bookshop was important not only because it stocked a wide selection of books including the most recent literary ones but it also organized literary events such as poetry readings and published from time to time cyclostyled pamphlets containing collections of poems of poets as Dominic Ofori. I am not sure whether the Njala Bookshop is still operating. But here in town it is indeed painful to see the once central and indispensable buying center for school-books as well as other readings for the general public, the C..M.S. Bookshop now Sierra Leone Diocesan Bookshop folding up rapidly. Today they are occupying only a third of the space they once held. A bookshop recently opened at Fourah Bay College raising hopes of a renaissance.

The problem of a lack of a sustaining and economic reading public does not provide enough incentives for encouraging the setting up of publishing endeavors. Official indications is that only 15% of our 3 ½ million people are literate. Of those who are officially literate it is probable that the vast majority of them are to all practical purposes semi-literate as they read nothing beyond the weekly or fortnightly newspaper. This kind of insipidness has been contributed to by a sterile and unimaginative educational system which allows little room for creativity. As a result the society sustained is one that is indifferent and insensitive and unsupportive of the literary arts.

Recession has further intensified these negative attitudes. Even those who are literarily committed change their habits as the need for survival becomes more compelling.

A major problem which faces writers and artists is that of producing their works without any certainty of the protection of their works form pirates and other threats. It is astonishing that in a country where courts are full of litigation, over physical properties-landed as well as otherwise, little or no place is still afforded litigants over trespass on their intellectual property. This is not because there have been no such infringements. Neither is it because we have no copyright laws, for there is solid evidence now of the existence of one from 1965 though which many would claim needs updating. It is still been bemoaned that Sierra Leone remains one of the few countries in the world which is still not a signatory to either of the international copyright conventions, universal or Berne.

The problem of which language to write is one which persists for many writers in Africa. If he writes in English he will not be read widely in his country. This is even more so in Sierra Leone where only 15% are literate in English. But again which of the over 10 languages will he choose. And if he does choose one of the less developed national languages there is the fear that obscurity will remain his lot as he will not be read beyond the narrow national or ethnic confines of his locale. But the famous Kenyan Writer Ngugi Wa’Thiongo has proved that this need not be so. He now writes his novels in his native Gikuyu and then translates them into English thus killing two birds with one stone.

Already, with the advantageous position taken by Krio now almost a de-facto Lingua Franca being spoken widely throughout the country and now being predominantly used in the theatre Sierra Leonean writers are more blessed with a ready choice if they should wish to reach their people first. Already an orthography has been made and a dictionary published. A few works including the Krio dictionary are already available. This position alone gives some prospects for the development of the literary scene especially so when placed besides the pioneering work of Gladys Casely- Hayford and Thomas Decker.

The pioneering role of Sierra Leone in the fields of education, writing and journalism alone should make it ideal for the flourishing of creative literary works. It was after all the seat of the first and most prestigious college which produced some of the leading elite who were to lead their continent’s development. It also had the first blossoms of schools, newspapers, journals and broadcasting media. With all this available history there must indeed be some rich potential waiting to be tapped. And indeed many young creative talents keep waiting to be tapped at all levels whenever the machinery is set in motion for the full realization of our creative literary reservoir. Already signs of breakthrough were seen in other aspects of the arts, resulting in the upsurge of musical recordings, theatrical activities, and the larger percentage of novels which have been published internationally by Sierra Leonean writers during the past two decades. This hope in our prospects for a take off can only be buttressed by the fact that Sierra Leone boasts of two of the continent’s most prominent critics of African Literature Profs. Eldred Jones and Eustace Palmer. Already the poet Syl Cheyney Coker has become a leading figure in African Literature by bagging two prestigious prizes in just a year after the publication of his first novel – The Last Harmattan of Alusine Dunbar which received rave reviews from some of the top media across the globe including the BBC Arts programmes Meridian and Arts and Africa. The two prizes in question here are the Robert Higham prize for a first novel; published in Britain. 3rd place and the African short list for the Commonwealth Prize.

Our present recession could be a plus for creativity for recession generally should serve as a stimulus for people to write and expiate their feelings. God knows, perhaps it is through such means that a breakthrough could be found. Experience and careful observation shows that most countries in the world have had the greatest spurt of creative explosion during crisis periods in their history. The great spurt of literature ‘the Nigerian civil war gave birth to is a case in point. So it is for us to see our own economic crisis as a fuel for generating our own creativity. Though we missed exploiting amply the opportunities offered by the UNESCO cultural decade we might try now to get funding from that end as well as locally to finance publications and other literary events. All the slightest hints of promise should be amply utilised. For there are certain signs that Sierra Leone will no longer be an obscure spot in the literary world. Syl Cheney Coker has brought much attention to Sierra Leone by his literary breakthrough with his first novel The Last Harmattan of Alusine Dunbar. This is reinforced by the impact of his third volume of poems. The Blood in the the Desert’s Eyes. He has now completed work on his second novel The Last Days of the Barracuda . His previous two volumes of poems are: Concerto for an Exile and The Graveyard also has Teeth . This feat was only recently boldly followed with the emergence of another strident literary voice in Aminata Forna with her Booker- prize winning The Devil that Danced on the Water and her most recent Ancestor Stone

Much promise of growth also came from the large output of works of folklore put out by an Adult Education Association., The Peoples Education Association (P.E.A.) through their Songs and Stories (SAS) project. Though aimed primarily at retrieving and recording our oral lore through songs, proverbs and folktales, it has published some real creative efforts such as two plays, The Weaverbirds and The Runaway by Frederick Borbor James and a collection of stories of Brima Rogers Love without Questions.

Happily some space is now being given by some newspapers to poems and short stories. The National for instance featured regularly poems and carried a few stories which included five of mine. Through a column in the same paper I tried to redirect attention to the literary and cultural domain. A few others. The New Shaft from time to time published poems. And I have seen some stories published in the pages of. The Vision.. Other papers have received literary publications through reviews in their pages. I have acknowledged . Sam Metzger who through his We Yone newspaper reviewed my work Folktales from Freetown which was published in 1987 as part of the bicentenary celebrations of the founding of Freetown. It is hoped that this is only the beginning of a growing trend, so that when next Sierra Leone makes a literary breakthrough the local press will not remain even though innocently or silent on it whilst it receives rave reviews in the international media. The press should not preoccupy itself exclusively in painting a completely dark picture of the society when indeed there are sparks of light here and there. These should be magnified within their pages so that readers do not get drowned in depressive complacence and despair. Readers could only be galvanized into action to redeeming the fate of our country if aware of the little though enviable efforts others are making in their little corners.

The electronic revolution is also beginning to be a boon for Sierra Leonean literature as well. Quite a number of individuals as well as institutions have created internet sites which are publishing on-line the works of Sierra Leonean writers, thus giving it a much wider exposure than was ever possible.

The first and most noteworthy of these online e-journals is the Sierra Leonean Writers Series (SLWS) which was set up and launched in 2001 in Sierra Leone in Freetown by Dr Osman Mallam Sankoh. Many of its works the latest being Lucilda Hunter’s novel Redemption Song are also available in printed book form. It focuses on academic, fictional, and scientific writing used in schools and colleges,promoting good quality books by Sierra Leoneans, writers of Sierra Leonean descent , and writers writing on or about Sierra Leone. The works published have local appeal and are related to the lives and experiences of Sierra Leoneans. The Mabayla Review another online journal is published four times a year by a prolific poet Gbanabom Hallowell offering a wide range of fiction including one of mine, poetry, social essays, translations, interviews, book reviews, criticism, theory alongside photographs focusing on Sierra Leone’s literary tradition and issues of social justice and the writing life in general from new and established Sierra Leonean and guest writers as well as social and political commentaries by Sierra Leoneans arising out of Sierra Leonean life. The journal founded in 2006 though it seems to have suffered some setbacks since its last edition in April 2007. I was assured by Mr Hallowell that it will resume after the redesigning of the website. I do hope this is accelerated as I have a few more stories to appear there and I think it holds the greatest prospect for the growth of writing in Sierra Leone.

Sierra Leone Pen is in the process of building a website sierraleonepen.org which should be expanding into publishing poetry and stories. For now the site is restricted to news items, photos and features. Perhaps the most certain promise given to not only literature but arts and culture in general is the singular commitment of government to cultural development expressed in the 1991 constitution but which is yet to be more boldly articulated in real terms with visible support for writers and other programs supportive of the growth of a luxuriant and strident literature from our shores. Now that a new government is now in place it is hoped that much interest and support wlll be coming from Government.

10 Things You Should Know About Literature

Literature appeals to our sense of beauty and thus gives us pleasure. Literature reaches the intelligence through the heart or feelings. Its emotional and rational appeal chiefly inspires us. Prose is the language of reason, while poetry is the literature of emotion. Love, hatred, joy, sorrow, fear, pity, anger, jealousy, revenge, charity such are the emotions that poetry stirs in varying degrees. The intense the emotion, the greater the appeal of poetry. The poetry of Shelley, Keats and Tennyson is highly charged with emotion.

In this article we will see what the essence of literature is and what it should be? How literature reflects human emotions, life, complexities, problems and heartedness?

(1) RAW MATERIAL FOR LITERATURE. Human life is the raw material for literature: human joys, pleasures, sorrows, feelings, emotions, expressions, human virtue and vices, human greatness and degradation, human aspirations, courage, hope, disappointment, success, failure, encouragement, appreciation, anger and frustrations are the stuff of which it is made. Literature may thus be regarded as a mirror of life or in the language of literary criticism, an imitation of life, it depicts human beings, their motives, goals, targets, and ambitions, the ups and downs of human life, thoughts and deeds.

(2) THE ESSENTIAL QUALITY. An essential quality of literature is that it appeals to the intellect through emotions. This emotional quality is its distinguishing mark and the reason of its universal appeal.

(3) DIFFERENCE BETWEEN SCIENCE AND LITERATURE. Science and especially the natural science appeals to mind of man through rationality, experimentation, empiricism and intellect but literature stirs his heart. It is because of its emotional appeal that literature is so widely read in highly developed and industrialized countries. Science having a purely intellectual and brainy appeal is focused and studied by only a minority of general public.

(4) VARIETIES IN LITERATURE. There are many varieties of literature, each having its own peculiar characteristics and each possessing its singular and eccentric appeal. Poetry, drama, novel, fiction, short story, long play and biography are the chief sub-divisions of literature, all of which enjoy immense popularity; a taste for these kinds of literature has spread even to the common man.

(5) LITERATURE IS A BLESSING. Literature is one of the greatest blessings of life, because it exists primarily to give us pleasure. It is a source of keen delight to read the lyrical poetry of Shelly, the sensuous poetry of Keats, the narrative poems of Coleridge, Scott and Byron, the Nature poetry of William Wordsworth, the sweet and musical verse of Tennyson and Rossetti and the melancholy poetry of Matthew Arnold. The comedies of Shakespeare with their rich wit and humor are a source of unending joy. The novels of such writers as Jane Austen, Dickens, Hardy, Stevenson, Arnold Bennet and H.G Wells, have given pleasure and lessons of life to innumerable readers. Indeed, the study of literature is one of the richest sources of human pleasure. It provides with and escapes from our personal circumstances and problems. We find ourselves in a new and beautiful world. We move about in the company of such characters as Falstaff, Mr. Pickwick, Mr. Micawber and Colonel Newcome.

(6) MORAL INSTRUCTIONS AND CHARACTER BUILDING. The study of literature is also a source of moral instruction. It depicts good as well as bad characters and presents them in such a way that we feel compelled to follow the example of good characters and avoid the follies and errors of evil ones. Most works of literature show us the working of a moral order in the universe, so that we can derive suitable lessons for our own guidance in life. Milton’s Paradise Lost, Dante’s The Divine Comedy, the novels of Tolstoy and the tragedies of Shakespeare are full of deep moral significance. The study of such works is bound to uplift and ennoble us. Literature brings us face to face with the eternal problems of life. It compels us to meditate over those problems in order to find a satisfactory solution. Literature has a role in the character building of humans.

(7) KNOWLEDGE OF HUMAN NATURE. Literature widens our knowledge of human nature and its working. The subject of literature being man, a good writer must have a vast knowledge of the human mind and human motives. Accordingly, by reading literature, was to develop an insight into human behaviors and nature. We are able to make use of this insight in our daily practical life. Moreover, the study of literature enables us to acquaint ourselves with the modes of life and traditions of people other than our own. A Russian novel will depict life in Russia; an American short story gives us a glimpse into the American way of life; an English play represents the life of Englishmen.

(8) MEN, MANNERS, SOCIAL EVILS AND LIFE EXPERIENCES. The study of literature is very useful in enlarging our knowledge of men and manners. Nor is this knowledge confined to the present-day world. Many books depict past ages and periods, and enable us to share the life experiences of other times. Thackeray’s Henry Esmond carries us back to the 18th century; the novels of Dickens depict the social evils of Victorian England. The poems of Scott, Keats and Rossetti take us back to Middle Ages.

(9) ADVANTAGES OF LITERATURE. In view of all these advantages, the study of literature is highly desirable. It may even be regarded as an essential part of education. Literature at once refines our emotions and develops our imagination. The faculty of imagination is one of man’s most valuable qualities, and the man who is unemotional, cold, who doesn’t have the courage and ambition to move ahead in life is not truly human. It must not be forgotten that excessive reading of literature tends to make some people over-imaginative. But to be an imaginative person is a valuable thing.

(10) IMPORTANCE OF IMAGINATIVE PROCESS. Literature creates and gives boost to human imagination and imaginative process. It was the imagination of Wright brothers, Orville (August 19, 1871 – January 30, 1948) and Wilbur (April 16, 1867 – May 30, 1912) to fly in the air, which gave them an impetus to work hard and make their dream true. It was the imagination of Thomas Alva Edison (February 11, 1847 – October 18, 1931) to make a stable light bulb. This imagination led him to work, work, work harder and work smartest. He tried different filaments. He worked continuously even in difficult situations and turned his imagination into reality. It was the imagination of Christopher Columbus ( 31 October 1451 – 20 May 1506) to find out a new and easy route to India, which succeeded him in discovering America. Without imaginative thought process, dram, goal, commitment, dedication, ardent devotion, determination, continuous and consistent labor no one can succeed…