The chairman of Abia State Universal Basic Education Board, Kenechukwu Nwosu, explained what inspired him to walk the path of his uncle, Prof Chukwuemeka Ike to become an award-winning writer, publisher, educator and administrator, the unique features of his books, among other issues. Excerpts:
When did you discover your passion for writing?
My interest in writing books was discovered when while growing up, I usually visited the fully sophisticated library of my mum’s elder brother, Prof. Vincent Chukwuemeka Ike, who was the First Registrar of the West African Examinations Council, President of the Nigerian Book Foundation, who has written numerous books including Toads for Supper, Expo 77, Sunset at Dawn, Chicken Chasers, Naked Gods, Potters Wheel. He also had high stakes in some of Nigeria’s top publishing companies. The vision of being an award-winning writer, publisher and educationist had become imprinted in my dreams from age 15 that someday I will become a popular writer, publisher and education executive administrator.
You’ve authored over 40 books, where did you get the inspiration?
By age 20, I had already started discovering my strengths in English grammar (an essential tool for writing) through personal studies I did to train myself and also started putting down scripts of books. By 2003, I launched out to put my first book in print, and when a major publishing company in Nigeria asked to take up publishing and marketing to give me some royalty from sales, I thought it better to explore entrepreneurship by having a company which can publish my books and market them. In doing this, I created jobs for my mates I did NYSC with my friend from Bayelsa State, where I served Nigeria to be my pioneer sales staff team to market my books in Aba, Onitsha and as far as Lagos state.
Can you share briefly how your books were recommended texts for the Nigerian school curriculum?
After putting my first books together, which included Computer Science for Schools at a time when computers were not too common in schools. I took these books to the Enugu State Ministry of Education, but unfortunately, by the time I got there, I was told to come back six years after as they had just concluded the book review, so had no option but to wait for six years. While waiting, I decided to travel back to my state Abia to introduce it. There, I discovered that the best way to introduce this subject which was not taught in schools yet as a result of no trained teacher as of 2004, was to train teachers free of charge on this subject area to get the Abia Ministry of Education to approve it as a subject. With this, I quickly penetrated the huge virgin market. I brought computers and trained over 1,500 primary and junior secondary school teachers free of charge. With this, I was the first and only computer books dealer in Abia State, and I opened my books unhindered to all public and primary schools in Abia State with government approval. From Computer Education, I wrote books in Basic Sciences, Agriculture, English, story books, moral lesson books and numerous books for nursery schools. From Abia, I got approved by Enugu, Ebonyi, Anambra, Rivers, Bayelsa States and many other states in Nigeria and moved quantities of books into schools.
What are the names of the books you’ve written?
The Good Life books 1- 3, Welcome to College Introduction to Computers 1- 6 and JSS 1-3, Basic Agriculture 1-6 and many other books on English Language, creativity and more.
Why are your books different?
My books are unique because of my deep and practical experience in teaching children spanning over 20 years, my graphic and illustrative expertise and my simplified approach towards producing books easy to understand. I produce books with the picture of the learners in my mind and ensure I use feedback from teachers, parents and students to improve my books. I continue to improve my books to match global standards.
In Nigeria, most nursery and primary schools accept books with the British curriculum, what is your view and does that affect you?
My books and my personal brand are seals of quality and well sought after by schools. I encourage books on the British curriculum to be used in our schools. Having attended numerous certificate courses with Cambridge Learning and British Council, I fully appreciate the quality of the British education system, which is one of the best in the world. Exposure to diverse systems of learning is encouraged for our children to prepare them for a wider knowledge base. Many Nigerian children who have travelled out to seek higher education have not found British learning systems strange. The availability of these British-tailored curriculum books also strengthens us as Nigerians to improve and appreciate the high quality of our indigenous Nigerian national curriculum also, which can stand any national curriculum globally. Worthy of note is the fact that Nigerian students compete favourably with other students when they travel abroad and even set new records in foreign schools.
Should we expect more books from you in the near future?
Yes, I am producing many more books now. The book industry is vast and dynamic. I am converting my present books to electronic copies and putting them in formats to facilitate their use for electronic learning and audio broadcast. I am producing a new set of children’s stories backed with animations for broadcast in my educational media network in full screen and other portable formats. Many children who used my books in their nursery and primary schools have become university graduates in the world today, and that gives me the greatest joy and fulfilment in life for contributing to the educational success of many generations.
How have you given back to society from all your achievements as an author and publisher?
I have, over many years, given out thousands of my books free annually to children in rural areas in Abia state, Bayelsa state etc. In 2011, I started a project of giving free books to orphans in orphanages to support their education. I also make time to visit orphanages to read stories to children there and teach them how to write using some books I produced on handwriting. Reading and writing at the Basic Education level remains the foundation for learning, and that’s my major goal in giving back.