By Faith Ochekwu
Recently, I was given a task of presenting a talk in an assembly of students between the ages of 10 and 14. I accepted the task without taking into consideration a topic or subject of presentation.
For a moment, I stopped to brainstorm when, suddenly, I remembered I had started a writeup on storytelling which was inspired by Dr Bukar’s People, Animals, Spirits and Object: 1000 Folk Stories of Nigeria and A Selection of Nigerian Folktales: Themes and Settings. The presentation was titled: The Benefit of Storytelling. The aim was to encourage students to listen to and read more stories as it was done in the past. The presentation began with a short storytelling video clip and of a boy and an apple tree.
As the students strolled into the gigantic Lumana Multi-purpose Hall of Zamani College Kaduna, the atmosphere was quiet and peaceful as they listened with keen interest. Thereafter, the presentation was made on different slides as seen below:
Storytelling is one art that distinguishes traditional African society from the modern one. In those days, the beauty of grandparents was in the stories they told their grandchildren. Such stories are handed down from one generation to another. In the past, stories were also told on T.V while in school however, children read stories from text books and they still do. The griots were an important part of the culture and social life in Africa. The main job of the griot was to entertain with stories. They would tell mythical stories of the gods and spirits of the region. They would also tell stories of kings and famous heroes from past battles.
Storytelling provides many psychological and educational benefits. According to The British Council, storytelling improves listening skills that is essential for learning and equally enhances relationship. Oral fluency is also enhanced. Storytelling promotes a feeling of well-being and relaxation. Many of our students are stressed from long day of school work and, therefore, need a few moments of story time to refresh and relax their nerves. Another benefit is enhanced imagination to help visualize spoken words, improved vocabulary, and more refined communication skills. In today’s digital world, everyone needs to be creative. Children could also need to improve their problem-solving skills by reading more and listening to more stories. The Turks for instance created stories around puzzles to enhance children’s problem-solving skills and likewise the Koreans who conquered fire by telling stories around the myth of fire.
Examples of stories are legends, folktales, allegories etc. According to Usman (2020) Folklore is a tool we can use to reshape the values of our people.
Who could forget the creator of the famous Mickey Mouse and friends? Be it fantasy or adventure, these stories are loved and watched in the world over.
Just as Walt Elias Disney brought smiles and happy memories to generations with stories suitable to people of all ages, Dr. Usman also writes and collects stories all round Nigeria and Africa to preserve our culture and educate our generations and generations after, to inspire us to inculcate the right values and most importantly to enlighten us.
In conclusion, stories are life teacher from which we learn about ourselves and about others. We develop an understanding of and appreciation for other cultures. Storytelling is therefore a unique way for students to acquire positive attitude towards people from different lands, races and religions.
Judith Jamison once said, ‘Just living is telling a story. You’re put on this earth to tell that story, to share those stories.’
At end of the presentation, the principal Mrs. Josephine Isiah Mohammed commented that it was a timely topic and also lent her voice to motivate the students not only to read but also to tell their own stories of how the pandemic has affected their lives.
Happy birthday to Dr. Bukar Usman, the Walt Disney of Africa. Nigeria is privileged to have you and Africa, too. May the year ahead bring you good health and more exploits.
Faith Olokpo Ochekwu is a Kaduna-based tutor