Icons Behind Unprecedented Rise Of Nigerian Fiction
Nigerian literature is known throughout the world through the exploits of literary icons like Wole Soyinka who won the 1986 Nobel Prize for Literature and the first black African to receive the award. Other Nigerian literally giants with world wide audience include Chinua Achebe, Buchi Emecheta, Flora Nwapa, , Gabriel Okara, Kole Omotoso, John Pepper Clark, Ben Okri and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, among others.
Wole Soyinka, Chinua Achebe and Ben Okri led the way, but a wave of women writers have taken over. In October 2019, writers from all over the world converged in Lagos for the Ake Arts and Book Festival, one of the biggest literary events on the African continent. Among them were authors whose narratives are helping to propel the phenomenon that is Nigerian Fiction on the global stage.
The festival showcased a newly minted Man Booker Prize Winner in Bernardine Evaristo announced as joint winner for her novel, Girl, Woman to win the prize. It does not hurt that she is born in London to a Nigerian father.
Now in its ninth year, the festival is a major highlight of the burgeoning Lagos Art Season, but this vibrant scene would not have been possible a few decades ago.
The pioneer generation of Nigerians writing in English emerged prior to independence from Britain in 1960 and included Wole Soyinka, Chinua Achebe and Amos Tutuola, then followed long periods of military dictatorship leading to a decline in the publishing environment with many intellectuals fleeing the country in one of the darkest episodes. A renowned writer and environmentalist and the former President of Nigerian Authors , Ken Saro-Wiwa was hanged with eight other activists of Ogoni extraction by the military regime of General Sani Abacha in 1995.
The second spring of Nigerian fiction came from abroad, from the first sign of resurgence as well as the international character of much of future literary expression came in 1991 when Ben Okri won the Booker of the Famished Road. Okri has been living in London for many years and his win energised writers back home.
It took another 10 years for the promise to come to fruition with Helen Habilas emerging as the seasoned winner of the Caine Prize for African Writing in 2001. Her winning story, Love Poems was an urban fable about the triumph of the imagination, over military repression, just as Nigerian writers would use the internet to find new publishing opportunities and readers.
By the time Chimamada Ngozi Adichie showed up on the orange prize shortlist with her debut novel, ‘Purple Hibiscus’ in 2004, Nigerian fiction was in full stride. She won the prize with ‘Half of a Yellow Sun’ in 2007, the year Vanity Fairs Africa Issue described her as parting the literary waves like Cleopatra and parted the wave she did. Following closely behind were many of her compatriots now taking the literary world by storm with publishing deals and awards in tow.
Decades after independence, there are concerns different from that of their pioneer generation, grappling instead with shifting notions of freedom and individuals in a globalised world. They are exploring themes including gender, sexuality and feminism, many are based in the west and thus are making significant contributions to the growing canon of immigrant stories.
Adichie is now firmly established as a literary superstar and cultural icon, winner of Mac Arthur Genius Giant, her TED talk, “We shall all be feminists” was sampled by Beyonce and also distributed to 16 year-old in Sweden. Her third novel, ‘Americanah’ is being made into a film starring Lupita Nyonyo.
The 2019 Booker also recognised Chigozi Obioma for his second novel “An Orchestra of Minorities”, his second time on the shortlist. Several Ake Festival guests have been long listed including Oyinkan Braith-Waithe, (My Sister the Serial Killer) and Ayobami Adebayo (Stay With Me). 2013 Caine Winner, Tope Falarin was also listed with his debut novel, “A Different Kind of Blackman”. So was Uzodinma Iweala, author of “ Beasts Of No Nation”, which was adapted for Netflix movie starring Idris Elba. It is very important to note that the festival was also organised by a writer, Lola Shoneyin, author of “The Secret Life Of Baba Segi’s Wives”.
Whereas the independence era, was dominated by male, the table has turned with the current generation as many of the most prominent players are women. The latest Caine Winner, Lesley Nneka Arimah is the sixth Nigerian to win it, making the country the most successful at the award so far. Also on the list was Nnedi Okorafor, a leading author in the fantasy genre she tags “African Futurism”.
She is responsible for several projects in the Marvel Comics, Black Panther stable and her novel “Who Fears Death” has been optioned for a series by Cable Network HBO, with the involvement of Game of Throne Creator, George R. Martin, NLNG Nigeria for Literature Winner, China Wigwe was also at the festival with her collection of short stories, ‘Better Never Than Late’.
These are some of the writers driving the increasing visibility of Nigerian fiction on book shelves around the world perhaps for a country of nearly 200 million people and 250 ethnic groups who like to call their country, the “Giant Of Africa”. With more of the country’s writers finding their voices to explore their live experiences and history, the rise of Nigerian fiction looks set to continue its exploits on the global stage.
By: Jacob Obinna
Checking Children Maltreatment
Child maltreatment is a serious global health problem with life long consequences.
It is the abuse and neglect that occurs to children under 18years of age by a parent, caregiver or another person in a custodial role, especially in the hands of a clergy, coach and teacher, that results in harm, potential harm or threat of harm to a child.
According to a report by World Health Organisation (WHO), nearly 3 in 4 children or 300 million children aged 2 to 4 years regularly suffer physical punishment or psychological violence at the hands of parents and caregivers. Also, one in 5 women and 1 in 13 men report having been sexually abused as a child aged 0 to 17 years.
Subsequently, 120 million girls and young women under 20 years of age have suffered some form of forced sexual contact.
Some consequences of child maltreatment include impaired lifelong physical and mental health, and the social and occupational outcomes can ultimately slow a country’s economic and social development.
The report further stated that child maltreatment is often hidden and only a fraction of child victims of maltreatment ever gets support from health professionals.
“A child who is abused is more likely to abuse others as an adult so that violence is passed down from one generation to the next. It is therefore critical to break this cycle of violence, and in so doing create positive multi-generational impacts.
Preventing child maltreatment before it starts is possible and requires a multisectoral approach.
Effective prevention approaches include supporting parents and teaching positive parenting skills, and enhancing laws to prohibit violent punishment.
Ongoing care of children and families can reduce the risk of maltreatment reoccurring and can minimise its consequences”,the report stated.
The report explained that child maltreatment includes all types of physical or emotional ill-treatment, sexual abuse, neglect, negligence and commercial or other exploitation, which results in actual or potential harm to the child’s health, survival, development or dignity in the context of a relationship of responsibility, trust or power.
In spite of recent national surveys in several low- and middle-income countries, data from many countries are still lacking. However, current estimates vary widely depending on the country and the method of research used.
International studies reveal that nearly 3 in 4 children aged 2-4 years regularly suffer physical punishment or psychological violence at the hands of parents and caregivers, and 1 in 5 women and 1 in 13 men report having been sexually abused as a child.
Every year, there are an estimated 40 150 homicide deaths in children under 18 years of age, some of which are likely due to child maltreatment. This number almost certainly underestimates the true extent of the problem, since a significant proportion of deaths due to child maltreatment are incorrectly attributed to falls, burns, drowning and other causes.
In armed conflict and refugee settings, girls are particularly vulnerable to sexual violence, exploitation and abuse by combatants, security forces, members of their communities, aid workers and others.
These include injuries, including head injuries and severe disability, in particular in young children; post-traumatic stress, anxiety, depression, and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) including HIV. Adolescent girls may face additional health issues, including gynaecological disorders and unwanted pregnancy. Also affect cognitive and academic performance and is strongly associated with alcohol and drug abuse and smoking – key risk factors for noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) such as cardiovascular diseases and cancer.
It is important to emphasize that children are the victims and are never to blame for maltreatment.
However,to maximize the effects of prevention and care, WHO recommends that interventions are delivered as part of a four-step public health approach: defining the problem; identifying causes and risk factors; then, designing and testing interventions aimed at minimising the risk factors; disseminating information about the effectiveness of interventions and increasing the scale of proven effective interventions.
Meanwhile, in another research, medically reviewed recently in 2022, a medical doctor of the State University of New York Medical University, Alicia Perkarsky said that causes of child maltreatment are varied.
Abuse and neglect are often associated with physical injuries, delayed growth and development, and mental health issues. She stated that, diagnosis is based on history, physical examination, and sometimes laboratory tests and diagnostic imaging. Management of the issue includes documentation and treatment of any injuries and physical and mental health conditions, mandatory reporting to appropriate government agencies, and sometimes hospitalization and/or foster care to keep the child safe.
Perkarsy stated that in 2020, 3.9 million reports of alleged child maltreatment were made to Child Protective Services (CPS) in the US involving 7.1 million children. About 2.1 million of these reports were investigated in detail, and about 618,000 maltreated children were identified . Maltreatment rates were higher among girls (8.9 per 1000 girls) than boys (7.9 per 1000 boys). The younger the child is, the higher the rate of victimization (about 29% were age 2 or younger).
Also, about two thirds of all reports to Child Protective Services were made by professionals who are mandated to report maltreatment (educators, law enforcement personnel, social services personnel, legal professionals, day care providers, medical or mental health personnel, foster care providers).
“Of substantiated cases in the US in 2020, 76.1% involved neglect (including medical neglect), 16.5% involved physical abuse, 9.4% involved sexual abuse, and 0.2% involved sex trafficking. Many children were victims of multiple types of maltreatment.
About 1750 children died in the US of maltreatment in 2020, about half of whom were < 1 year old. About 73% of these children were victims of neglect and 43% were victims of physical abuse with or without other forms of maltreatment. About 80% of perpetrators were parents acting alone or with other individuals .
Potential perpetrators of child maltreatment are defined slightly differently in different US states, but, in general, to legally be considered abuse, actions must be done by a person responsible for the child’s welfare. Thus, parents and other relatives, people living in the child’s home who have occasional responsibility, teachers, bus drivers, counselors, and so forth may be perpetrators. People who commit violence against children who they have no connection to or responsibility for ( as in school shootings) are guilty of assault, murder, and so forth but legally are not committing child abuse”,she stated.
Here, in Nigeria, in a recent study by a researcher, Chiluba Edo of the Golden Gate University, School of Law noted that, child abuse and neglect is prevalent in the everyday life of a child but it receives little or no attention by the society. This is as a result of the emphasis placed on the more prevalent childhood problems of malnutrition and infection. The study observed that another possible reason is the general assumption that in every African society the extended family system always provides love, care and protection to all children. Yet, there are traditional child rearing practices which adversely affect a child. With the alteration of society by rapid socioeconomic and political changes, various forms of child abuse have been identified and have been considered the outcome of abnormal interactions between the child, parents/guardians and society. These, the study noted include abandonment of normal infants by unmarried or very poor mothers in cities, increased child labour and exploitation of children from rural areas in urban elite families, and abuse of children in urban nuclear families by childminders. Preventive measures include provision of infrastructural facilities and employment opportunities in the rural areas in order to prevent drift of the young population to the cities. This would sustain the supportive role of the extended family system which is rapidly being eroded. There is also need for greater awareness of the existence of child abuse in the community by health and social workers”,the study noted
By: Ibinabo Ogolo
Hints On How To Safeguard Kids
Nurturing and care of children is something parents and guardians should take seriously especially in this digital era. Children can easily hurt themselves as it is part of growing up. This means that parents should do their best to keep them from preventable accidents.
Knowing where the children are at a particular time to avoid being abducted by unknown persons should give parents some concern.
A lot has to be done for parents to achieve that. Parents must set up basic safety rules and regulations for their children to abide by.
We are aware that parenting can be stressful but abiding by experts advice can help achieve that.
It is necessary to take photographs of children before they get to a place with large number of persons.
A place like Pleasure Park, or any other tourist centre which might be crowded can be an example. Children from many homes can look alike and may want to leave with others as soon as they become friendly in such places that have large-volume attendance.
If you are not careful, some may also walk across the roads and walk into moving vehicles. In as much as parents do not wish that happens to their children, it is better to be prepared in case it happens.
According to experts, a parent can take a picture of her child before visiting an amusement park or attending a birthday party.
When a parent does that, he or she can have a picture of how the children are and the kind of attires they put on that very day in case the children are declared missing.
If it is a tourist centre for instance, the parent will show the childrens’ picture to the authorities concerned and it will make it easier and more effective.
During parties and outdoor visits, watch what your children consume because they will like to taste every delicacy prepared.
Allow them take only the quantity they can consume. Some may not be used to a lot of dishes and drinks especially the in-house prepared drinks and juice.
The effect of excess consumption might be when you finally return home for a rest and the children begin to react to food poison.
Domestic accidents are easily noticed among kids. Keeping inflammable substances away from children is important.
An incident occurred where a four-year-old boy stroke a stick of matches into a jerry- can that contains petrol at the house corridor. The result was the entire residential building gutted by fire.
The kid had minor burn as his elder siblings together with him escaped through the back door from the kitchen.
Children should be discouraged from using candle light.
Gas cylinders must be tightly closed when not in use as children can turn it on when not in use.
Washing detergents like bleach, hypo and others must be out of reach of children because they may mistake them for water.
By: Eunice Choko-Kayode
Need To Take Care Of Children Worldwide
At the end of last year, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) released a new report, ‘Preventing A Lost Decade: Urgent Action’ to reverse the devastating impact of COVID- 19 on children and young people. While it is easy for reports released in December to get lost in the end of the year rush, this report needs everyone’s attention. UNICEF called COVID-19 the greatest challenge to children in its 75-year history; and the situation is exacerbated by conflict, disaster, and climate change.
The facts tell a sobering story about the impact of the pandemic on children.
In less than two years, 100 million more children have fallen into poverty, a 10 percent, increase since 2019.
In 2020, over 23 million children missed out on essential vaccines.
50 million children suffer from wasting, the most life-threatening form of malnutrition, and this could increase by 9 million by 2022
At its peak in March 2020, 1.6 billion children were facing school closure.
Behind every one of these numbers are real stories: young children were left behind as preschool closed and food lines grew. School age children, particularly those with the most to gain, had limited access to remote learning. Teens suffered from social isolation and lack of mental health supports, and growing demands for early marriage. Parents tried their best to keep it all going; yet too often without the financial and social resources they needed. And the unpredictability of everyday life brought stress that seemed almost impossible to bear.
Fortunately, many communities around the world rallied: volunteers delivered food, distributed protective equipment and set up new hygiene facilities, and teachers worked to connect children with resources at home. We were all inspired by stories of people working for change, from health care workers to childcare providers, from youth to seniors.
Yet the challenges facing children were alarming even before COVID-19 became a household word. Approximately, one billion children, nearly half of the world’s children live in countries that are at an “extremely high risk” from the impacts of climate change and more and more children are forcibly displaced, all too often from conflict that could have been and should have been avoided.
Clearly, those in positions of power need to make investing in children, families, and communities a priority this year and in the years ahead. This is particularly true for U.S Foreign Assistance. Building on earlier work, in June of 2019, the U.S. launched Advancing Protection and Care for Children in Adversity: A United States Government Strategy for International Assistance (2019-23). This important document outlines a strategy for investing in the world’s most vulnerable children. In 2020 Congress passed the Global Child Thrive Act, providing additional direction for U.S. Government to invest in early childhood development. These are both important steps; now we all have to assure that they receive the attention and resources that this movement deserves.
The UNICEF report outlines an urgent agenda for action for children, including recommendations to invest in social protection, health, and education as well as building resilience to better prevent, respond to and protect children. Government, business and civil society and the public need to work together. But as in any crises, each individual action makes a difference. We can not wait for someone else to step forward with a solution. Each of us must ask: What can I do to help a neighbour, work in my community, build awareness, provide another voice, help empower others? What else can we do to integrate these issues into every field of study: from health to education, from diplomacy to economic development, from environmental studies to urban planning and design?
In their powerful new book, The Book of Hope: A Survival Guide for Trying Times, Jane Goodall and Douglas Abrams with Gail Hudson, addressed an important question-How do we stay hopeful when everything seems hopeless? What is so uplifting about this story is that it draws a clear link between hope and action. It seems to be telling us that, while important, it is not the resilience of nature or the human intellect alone that matter, but also our spirit and belief in the possibilities and the power to take action. I can’t think of a better year to start.
Lombardi is an international expert on early childhood development and Senior Fellow at the Collaborative on Global Children’s Issues, Georgetown University.
By: Joan Lombardi
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