By 1997 when I mooted the idea of publishing teen authors from Hill-Top Model School, Minna, those who served as mentors were Kamar Hamza, Abdullahi Ismaila Ahmed (editor) and I. Within the same year, Echoes of Young Minds was born. It mainly comprised students of Hill-Top Model School where I worked then as a teacher.
Thereafter, we continued with the exigencies of organizing the Annual Schools Carnival of Arts and Festival of Songs (ASCAFS) where almost all the members of the Association of Nigerian Authors, Niger State were mentors in one field or the other.
By 2004, the Hill-Top Art Centre was born as an institution to commence programmes and activities for mentoring teen authors. Those who were the pioneer mentors at the centre were Kamar Hamza, Awwalu Abdullahi Sakiwa, Garba Usman Katako and the author of this book. Later we were joined by Ahmed Maiwada. Jibrin Bala Jibrin joined in editing Penalty of an Orphan by Zainab Manko. Diego Okenyodo was the first distant mentor of our teen authors. Aminu Sheikh, Alkasim, and Lucky Oghvuwu were mentors to Saddiq before his first book (Image of Life). These are all writers who are still active.
Subsequently, in 2006, the Mazariyya Teen Authorship Scheme was introduced where Kamar, Maiwada, Jibrin and myself served as the mentors who conducted workshops in six schools within the Minna metropolis. Each time we had a workshop, Maiwada would drive into Minna to join us. Hussaini Kodo, Sadisu Mohammed (Yekondunu), and Alkasim Abdulkadir were invited to provide light editorial services for some of the anthologies. Six titles were published under the series.
By 2008/2009 Kamar and I edited a national anthology of teen authors to commemorate the 2009 annual convention of the Association of Nigerian Authors which was held in Minna. The title is Breaking the Bud.
Between 2006 and 2010, the Hill-Top Arts Centre was run by Awwalu Sakiwa after I moved to IBB University Lapai. A teacher, Ibrahim Benson supported him. We returned to the Art Centre in 2011 to re-organize the place. The mentors at that second coming were Kamar Hamza, Awwalu Sakiwa and Nupe Writer. We were later supported by Nurudeen Abdulwahid, Yerima Muhammad, Halima Aliyu, Maryam Bobi, Paul Liam, Saddiq Dzukogi, BM Nagid, Danjuma Terfa, Aminu S. Muhammad, Munirat O. Suleiman, Bilkisu AbdulAziz and a few writers from ANA Niger. We put the mentees into clusters and appointed young mentors for them. They were BM Nagidi, Danjuma Terfa, Paul Liam etc. They had teen authors like Deborah Oluniran, Maryam Manko, Hauwa Shafi’i, Esther Ibikitan, Precious Okafor, Daniel Ibikitan, Hadiza Usman, little Prescila Adesina, Anas Dubanni, Mercy Adams, Esther Ibikitan, Richard and his friends from GSS Minna etc. These were the first set of our Teen Authors’ Flash Series in 2013. One or two of our early mentees turned mentors like Paul, Terfa and Halima were very outstanding in delivery. You couldn’t but be very proud of them. Paul and Musa Mc have shown and exhibited a commitment to duty when I asked them to oversee Saturday sessions. An exercise, Deborah and Hauwa Shafi’i benefited from tremendously.
Musa Yunusa MC, somehow had an entire generation of teen authors to himself until he left for youth service in 2016. They love his presence. He was supported by Halima Aliyu and me. He handed them over to me and Nupe Writer when he was leaving. Intermittently, writers like Alkasim Abdulkadir, Agatha Aduro, Saddiq Dzukogi, Almamun Mallam, Kamar Hamza, and David Ishaya Osu would pop in to handle sessions. The MC generation includes Peter Kwange, Victor Ugwu, Prescila Adesina, Khadija Jagaba, Amina Umar, Miracle Attah, Joy Solomon, Mohammed Yusuf, Sagir Saleh, Bashir Adam etc. We appointed monthly editors to look at the scripts written by the children who were shortlisted for the third (2016) Teen Authors’ Flash. Those who have edited works in 2016 include BM Nagid (2), Saddiq Dzukogi (1), Halima Aliyu (3), David Ishaya (1), and Shittu Fowora (1). They are also referred to as mentors by our schedule. Those who have anchored the programme since its inception are Paul Liam, Musa Yunusa MC, Nana Sule, Halima Aliyu, Deborah Oluniran and Nur’din Busari.
Similarly, any visiting artist is instantly turned into a mentor for the Saturday training session. Abubakar Gimba, Maiwada, Jezie, Olu Jacob, Alkasim, Nur’din Busari, Agatha, Sue’ide, Amu Nnadi, Evelyn Osagie and many others have handled sessions in the past. The guests talk about their writing experiences and works, the role of writers in society, the need to read books, their professions, citizenship, life and co-existence. We encourage visitations to the art centre by established or published writers to give a variety of experiences to teen authors away from their normal mentors. This introduces fresh perspectives to learning and makes the experiences memorable.
Assigning roles or role-playing has turned mentees into mentee-mentors at the Centre like asking Fodio Ahmed (100L student) of IBB University to come down from Lapai to handle Report Writing while being a learner himself. We do attach newcomers to the existing mentees to guide them along the philosophies of the centre and the basics of creative writing. Recently, new members were attached to Prescila Adesina, Peter Kwange, Victor Ugwu and others for rudimentary knowledge in reading and writing. Peter and company are under twenty who are published. This is the dynamism of the Hill-Top Arts Centre. It is not a one-man job. In creative writing, the task is encouraging reading, reading of pieces of works by mentees or mentors and such works discussed under the elements of writing on Saturdays, literary language, language competence, techniques, meaning, logic, sense and structure.
Under role-playing, older mentees organize events and conduct such with our supervision. They anchor programmes on radio, teen authors flash and serve as heads of units like a library, photography, creative writing, performances, workshops, editing anthologies, welfare etc. Mentoring is not teaching at the Art Centre; it is a mechanism for diverse interactions where both the mentor and the mentee share knowledge. It is not a classroom situation. There is no structured reward for the mentor; it is purely voluntary because the centre does not belong to anybody. It is the reason why it has remained in a public school; Hill-Top Model School, Minna.
B.M. Dzukogi is the pioneer Director-General, of the Niger State Book Development Agency, and former General-Secretary, of the Association of Nigerian Authors. He founded the Hill-Top Art Centre, Minna in 2004. He has to his credit ten publications in poetry, short story, essay, interview, children’s stories and aphorisms. He is an art administrator responsible for the creation of many art programmes and platforms which include the Annual Schools Carnival of Arts and Festival of Songs, Nigerian Writers Series, Minna Literary Series, MBA International Literary Colloquium, National Teen Authorship Scheme, Bookhawker and many other literary initiatives in Niger State and Nigeria.