She Went ‘Paper Yes’ Yesterday!, By Pius Adesanmi
“Daddy, paper yes! Paper yes!”
“Tise, where is the paper you are saying yes to?”
She gives me the look I have come to associate with being told that I’m not smart.
“Daddy I said paper yes! Paper yes! I am not saying yes to a paper”
“No, daddy, paper yes!!!”
Frustrated, I take her school bag and look inside the folder where her teacher writes daily remarks for parents. Inside there is a letter: Dear parents, we are pleased to inform you that effective Monday, junior and senior kindergarten are going paperless! We have created an app. Please follow the instructions below to download the app to your phone and other devices. Happy paperless learning world to your little one!
“Oh, Tise, the letter from your teacher says you are going paperless!”
“Yes, Daddy, paper yes! Is that not what I have been saying?”
She gives me the chastising look that tells me I’m a slow learner. She runs away, screaming the excitement of her new “paper yes” world all over the house.
I sit down. Tired. Sad. And. Frustrated.
This child of mine is 4+. She will be five only in November. Her life has been about gadgets and devices since she started to crawl. She was about eight months old when she went to her Uncle, Asaju Tunde’s house and manipulated an iPad with such dexterity that poor old Asaju, who until then had never used an iPad, rushed to get one, lest he be disgraced by an eight-month-old. The child could already find her way through her YouTube cartoon channels at the time.
At home, we struggle to keep up with her mastery of gadgetary. Now, her school is saying kindergarten is going paperless and I must henceforth download an app where everything pertaining to the monitoring of my child will be stored and delivered to my own device. Already, I sometimes follow her live on Twitter because the teachers constantly post live classroom activities to a Twitter account accessible only by parents.
And a child in Eiyenkorin community development elementary school is supposed to compete for the same opportunities in this same world with my child who has such a huge head start because she was fortunate to have been born in a part of the world where the leaders are not Orangutans. And a child in Ifesowapo community elementary school in Okokomaiko is supposed to compete with this child! And a child in Karu, in Nyanya, is supposed to compete with this child!
Only yesterday, Sahara Reporters screamed that a secondary school in Ogun state is distributing report cards handwritten on foolscap paper to students.
And Tise is going “paper yes” in kindergarten!
I cannot enjoy this moment in my daughter’s life. Nigeria will not let me enjoy it because I have the image of her peers in classrooms without desks, without windows, without ceilings in my mind. They are there fighting for space with agama lizards and wall geckos in our public schools. Even the one percent who can have their kids in similar situations in Nigeria pay school fees enough to service the education budget of the city of Ottawa. And once they put their own kids in those oyinbo international schools where they pay in dollars, they pretend they do not know that the 99 percent, victims of their terrible leadership, send their kids to schools where you still have to use cow dung to darken the blackboard.
And my four-year-old is going paper yes in Ottawa.
But, sha, those who did this to Nigeria, those who are doing this to Nigeria, if the owner of night says it shall be well with them, the owner of morning will disagree.
Wahala is the fate of a door. A door never knows peace. A door never finds peace. Open. Close. Open. Close. Such is the fate of a door. May the fate of a door forever be the lot of those ruling Nigeria.
Pius Adesanmi, a professor of English, is Director of the Institute of African Studies, Carleton University, Canada.