An old joke says that one rich father-in-law, on the wedding day of her daughter, presented the young bride and groom with a Bible for a gift.
The couple placed the gift book on the shelf and never got to open it. And right after the wedding this new couple started experiencing financial difficulties.
Unknown to them, the bride’s father had inserted a fat cheque inside the pages of the Bible. The value of the cheque was such that it could comfortably meet all their financial needs for many years. Unfortunately this couple never opened the Bible given to them and so did not notice the hidden treasure.
After many years the father needed an account of his wedding present. Just imagine the wonder, surprise, shock, and regret that followed as the now old couple reached for the dusty Bible on the shelf and finally retrieved their wedding present!
Stephen Mugisha, an author and educationist founded the Rwanda Book Development Initiative. He says that Rwanda is endowed with a rich culture but unfortunately reading is not among them.
“Rwandan people traditionally and currently have a rich oral tradition that insures the passage of cultural practices from one generation to another. Listening has been an important skill that has been perfected by oral traditional practices,” Mugisha said.
A number of Rwandan literature is still transmitted from one generation to another or from group to group by word of mouth.
Alice Buhinja, a Rwandan writer notes that due to the historical oral traditions, several Rwandans are quick to believe rumors or speculation than reading to learn the facts.
“When I read Machiavelli’s work I relate it to today’s situation. I can as well predict tomorrow which enhances my thinking capacity, because many don’t write so they don’t value it,” she says.
Additionally, Mugisha discourages an education system that emphasizes reading to pass exams.
“Our children in schools are made to read or cram only material that is necessary to pass exams. We finally get graduates who know too many useless theories, but do not even know how to apply them in life because they don’t know what is happening in the world within their vicinity,” explained Mugisha.
The author emphasizes that embracing a reading culture should go beyond mere pep talk.
“Reading is not just for school, it is for life. Reading, in all its variety, is vital to the society in order to become better informed, that enables us to have a better understanding of ourselves and others,” he says.
“It is all too easy to blame the school and the teachers for not teaching us to enjoy reading. We can easily blame society for not playing a more positive role in ensuring a more positive reading culture,” he concludes.