Professor Helen Yitah, Head of the Department of English, at the University of Ghana-Legon, has observed that reading among students, especially those in Senior High Schools has been taken over by social media.
“We are losing the culture of reading, I think that our students are reading less and less. When we were in that same school, some decades ago, we were reading a lot more. We had list of books to read and beyond that we had lots of supplementary reading that we did.”
Professor Yitah, who is a lead member of the Bawku Old Students Association (BOSA) said this in an interview with the Ghana News Agency (GNA) in Bolgatanga, the Upper East Regional capital after she inaugurated the BOSA Reading Club in Bawku.
She said reading built up students’ knowledge, language, experience of the world and the way people reacted to issues. “It made us the people that we have become. These days, reading has been put at the background, while social media has taken centre stage in the life of students.”
She said there was unique encounter in reading books that would not be found on the screens of phones, and television among others and explained that the initiative was to establish the culture of reading among students, and to encourage them to read more and perform better in all their courses.
The Professor said there was a decline in the academic performance of students over the years, and indicated that “we did a little survey and found that sometimes they do not even understand the questions let alone answer them properly.”
She said the language of students who text on WhatsApp, Facebook among others cribbed into their formal writing. “It is something that we have to do what we can to discourage. You cannot communicate formally using textese. Textese has its own place and formal writing has its own place, and they have to learn the right register for the right occasion.”
Professor Yitah encouraged all students at various levels of education to inculcate in themselves the habit of reading books that they find to be of interest, and insisted such books must be decent.
She said students could contact their teachers and mentors to help them choose right and decent books to read, “there is nothing that compares with actually holding a book and reading it. It is a unique experience that I will encourage all students everywhere to develop.”
Reverend Sylvester Agalga, Headmaster of the Bawku Senior High School, said it was sad that “The academic performance of the school leaves much to be desired. The failure rate and poor quality grades of students is alarming to the extent that this school has been categorised among the non-performing schools.”
He said “As the new Headmaster of this school, I wish to assure stakeholders that I will work relentlessly to reverse this downward trend, God being my helper,” and called for unity, support and dedication to duty among staff to rewrite the academic history of the school.
Reverend Agalga described as phenomenal the support of BOSA and the Parent Teacher Association (PTA) in the provision of the needed infrastructure to enhance teaching and learning.