Last year’s National Festival of Arts and Culture (NAFEST) was an opportunity for players in the creative industry to showcase some cultural commodities, such as dance, culinary skills, fine art, textile designs and crafts. In this interview with Assistant Editor (Arts) OZOLUA UHAKHEME, the Permanent Secretary, Akwa Ibom State Ministry of Culture and Tourism, Elder Offiong Udoffe, a lawyer, speaks on the festival’s impact on the state’s socio-economic life.
Why is Akwa Ibom keen on children art events, especially the competitive ones?
Nigeria is a great country and we have to ensure that we develop our children to maintain the standard that we will set as a country. As a state, we focus on children in order to tap their potentials. There are lots of youths who are very talented in visual art and other creative arts, and we feel that we should incorporate essay writing and painting in the programme to task the children in these aspects. This is to improve on their inherent potentials so that they can be proud Nigerians.
Are we going to see more of Wole Soyinkas and Chinua Achebes from this NAFEST competition?
Honestly, that is the vision. As a matter of fact, we do understand that these days, children are no longer interested in reading novels and they are also not interested in poetry and painting. But we need to encourage them because by the time the likes of Soyinka are no longer there, we need the young ones to step up and take their places in the history of this country.
How is your state preserving indigenous languages?
The state is doing a lot to develop the local languages, which have been introduced into curriculum in the schools so that the children can be well groomed in their local languages. It will be very sad if a child cannot speak the local language or name the food they eat. These days, you find children talking about indomie and fast food. We are trying to inculcate in our children those virtues that are in our local languages, and of course you know that you can only appreciate what they are doing through the local languages.
Akwa Ibom State Government and the Ministry of Education is putting everything in place to ensure that the local language is introduce in our school and our children can use it in whatsoever they are doing.
Is the state reviewing the school curriculum at the lower level to accommodate language teachers?
Well, Akwa Ibom State Government is doing well in that direction. About a year ago, the state embarked on the employment of about 5,000 teachers and they were purely core professionals in education. We took this into consideration when recruitment was going on. I believe with this action taken by the state government, we will have enough teachers in this area of creative art to develop the young ones.
It is rare to find children hawking on the streets of Uyo unlike other states?
There is a law in place that any child found on the road hawking or trading during school hours should be arrested and detained by the staff of the Ministry of Women Affairs. That order has been effective for the past years. Every child must be in school as Akwa Ibom State introduced free and compulsory education for all children, whether you are from Akwa Ibom or not.