A major constraint to the study of the visual arts as a school subject in Nigeria today is the dearth of art literature such as learned journals and textbooks. Several factors have also contributed to this problem.
The earliest literature on aspects of Nigerian art could be found in the books and other types of literature which were produced by early Western travellers, merchants, Muslim and Christian missionaries, and colonial administrators who had come to the area that is referred to today as Nigeria about a millennium ago.
Other examples of published works with references made to Nigerian arts are those of Captain Hugh Clapperton (1829) in which he commented on the elaborate ornaments which characterised the wooden sculptures that he saw in Oyo in 1926. Leo Frobenius (1913), a German ethnologist discussed Ife bronze sculptures in his account of the African cultures he saw during his trip to the continent at the beginning of the twentieth century A.D.
One of the earliest examples of works with references on aspects of Nigerian art was that of W.H Clarke, a Baptist missionary. It was an account of his exploration of Yorubaland in the late nineteenth century, which remained unpublished until 1972. Samuel Johnson’s (1921) book on the history of the Yoruba has a section devoted to the Yoruba people’s visual art. The work of Johnson, a black Anglican missionary like Ajayi Crowther, was the result of his attempt to document the oral history of the Yoruba which he feared may become lost as a result of the protracted Yoruba civil wars of the nineteenth century.
It is noteworthy that the views of aspects of Nigerian art documented in the published dairies of early travellers to country were not intended to be used as instructional materials in Nigerian educational institutions as these did not exist at that time, and were established some centuries or decades later. The works containing materials on Nigerian art like those of other African people were published at that time for Western readers many of whose curiosity about Africa’s prospects for trade and other imperialistic potentialities engendered the exploration of the country.
The Introduction of Books into Nigerian Schools
Books were not used in the informal education system which was practised in pre-colonial Nigeria. This was because book writing and reading were alien to the traditional Nigerians whose cultural history was oral before Muslims scholars and clergy men introduced the Quran and other Islamic books into northern Nigeria. This was done in their bid to facilitate their Islamisation of the indigenous people of Nigeria in the middle eleventh century A.D (Fayose and Madu 2001:16). Similarly, Christian missionaries introduced books such as the Bible, hymnals, catechisms and the Queen’s primer in their bid to ensure Christian evangelism and “civilize” Nigerians whom they first encountered in the southern part of the country. For instance, this phenomenon in Nigeria took place in the coastal towns of Warri, and the ancient Benin kingdom that was located at the mouth of River Gwatto in the fourteenth century A.D. (Kenny 1083:45-60).
However, art books did not appear in the Nigerian art education scene until sometime in the early twentieth century A.D. after the formal education system had been introduced into the country some eight decades back. Early art teachers in Nigeria such as Aina Onabolu and Kenneth Murray, both employed by the colonial government in 1922 and 1927, respectively used imported art textbooks to facilitate their teaching of visual arts in Nigerian schools, which were few and located in major towns like Lagos, Ibadan and Umuahia at the time. The source of the art books, like the ones which were used to teach other subjects such as English language, history, and mathematics, was mainly Europe where the teachers studied. Aside these points is the fact that publishers such as Oxford and Cambridge Universities presses which produced books abound in countries like Britain. It was not until much later in the twentieth century when printing and publishing began to thrive following the steady growth of journalism and commercial printing that the production and publication of textbooks began in Nigeria. Fayose and Madu (2001: 19-20) inform that the process was facilitated by foreign publishers, who opened branches of their companies in the country in the 1930s and 1940s.
It is, however, doubtful if the writing of art textbooks was included in the agenda of the text book committee which was set up in 1927 by the colonial government in Nigeria because the study of art which began only some five years earlier in 1923 was at its infant stage the text book committee which was charged with task of “seeking for manuscripts and authors that could suit Nigerians” was set up as the result of the insistence of the participants at the Imperial Education Conference in London in 1923 that school text books should be made relevant to the people.
The early text books which were imported from abroad and used in Nigerian schools were written by foreign art scholars. Art pupils in Nigerian schools in the era before and immediately after independence in 1960 will remember reading books like Art: Creative and Mental Growth (Lowenfeld 1947), Graphic Design (Lewies and Brinkley 1954) Art for African Schools (Stanfield 1956), A Concise History of Art (Bazin 1958), Art Teaching for Primary Schools in Africa (Mackenzie 1966), Aesthetics and Art Theory: an Historical Introduction (Osborne 1970), Art and Illusion (Gombrich 1971) and The Story of Art (Gombrich, 1972). General Art text books which were imported into Nigeria during the era in question include the ones written by Fleming (1955) Hoffman (1965) and Feldman (1967). These focused on Western art which they treated from the prehistoric art period, through the ancient Mediterranean and classical European traditions. They ended at the evolution of modern art era with slight mention made of the role of African arts in its dispensation.
Earlier in the 1920’s, a few expatriate artists of whom Kenneth Murray was typical, commenced writing articles on aspects of Nigerian arts. These they published in the Nigeria Magazine, a government journal on Nigeria, her people and culture that was launched in 1927 (Awe 1989: 28). The establishment of the Department of Antiquities with the Antiquities Act. No. 17 of 1953, which mandate was to discover, preserve and research into the diverse traditional cultures of the people of Nigeria provided more impetus for the publications of materials on Nigerian visual arts (Awe 1989: 28).
The results of the ethnographic and archaeological works of the likes of William and Bernard Fagg, Frank Willett, Sylvia Leith-Rosa and Thurston Shaw were not only featured in volumes of the journal but inadvertently became the subjects of books on Nigerian arts. Examples of these are Bernard Fagg’s (1977) Nok Terracottas, Willett’s (1967) Ife in the History of West African Sculpture, Leith-Rosa’s (1970) Nigerian Pottery and Shaw’s (1977) Unearthing Igbo Ukwu.
Experimental workshops on Yoruba art which were organized in Oye-Ekiti, Ijebu-Igbo and Ondo in the late 1940s with a view to using their products in Catholic churches as liturgical objects propelled Rev. Father Kelvin Carroll (1947) to write the book, Yoruba Religious Carving, Pagan and Christian Sculpture in Nigeria and Dahomey.
The seed of interest in traditional and contemporary Nigerian arts scholarship as well as that of a general interest in African arts, which had been sown in the early twentieth century due partly to the international interest in traditional African art and mainly to the fervour to search for and create a cultural identity for new independent African nations, grew immediately after independence in 1960. Ulli Beier (1960), Marshall Mount (1973) and Frank Willett (1971) blazed the trial with their books in this respect. Osa Egonwa (1994) and Kojo Fosu (1986) followed suit much later.
In writing about adult education in Nigeria, Onyenemezu (2012) acknowledged that the country is facing challenges in the 21st century. Recently youth and young adults have been restive in the Niger Delta region resulting in violence and youth militancy in militias. More recently, Boko Haram is wreaking havoc through bombings, kidnappings, and assassinations. Onyenemezu argued that examining adult education could help to alleviate the instability and increase political and economic development. Oddly, when Zuofa and Olori, (2015) recently researched adult learning methods in Nigeria, they did not include storytelling. Evidence suggests that it would be an effective method of adult education in Nigeria. Whether in formal, informal, or non-formal learning, telling the stories of historical facts and cultures are significant aspects of connecting adult learners with their cultural heritage.
Although Achebe first wrote of the impact of colonizers on Igbo clans in 1959, as recently as 2014, Nduka expressed concern that the Igbo culture will be lost. He lamented that when fathers do not know the history and stories of their own culture, it is a tragedy that they cannot answer the questions of their children about festivals, the indigenous calendar, the age-grade or age-group system, chieftancy within the community, or meanings of proverbs. Storytelling is useful for members of the African diaspora not just to remember their own history, but to adapt to their new homes. Tuwe (2016) studied African communities based in New Zealand and argued that the oral tradition of storytelling was useful when dealing with work-related challenges. 96 Decolonization involves challenging Western epistemologies and embracing an indigenous paradigm and traditional knowledge.
Recognizing the power and influence of native stories can assist decolonization and reverse the perception of colonizers being knowers and indigenous people as being ignorant. First, the legacy of the helping Western colonializing Other must be resisted…As agents of colonial power, Western scientists discovered, extracted, appropriated, commodified, and distributed knowledge about the indigenous other. (Denzin, Lincoln & Smith, 2008, p. 5) In order to undo western dominance and unravel colonialism, it is necessary to create knowledge based on African philosophy which includes “community-centred [sic] ways of knowing, the story-telling framework, [and] language as a bank of knowledge” (Chilisa & Preece, 2005, p. 49). Storytelling satisfies all three of those aspects. Since storytelling was a social practice and a participatory experience, it is community centered. The storytelling framework has been used for millennia in Nigeria in the oral tradition, which continues even with the evolution of written stories.
Finally, language is a bank of knowledge since proverbs and cultural history are included in both the oral and written tradition. Although European colonizers renamed lands, bodies of water, and other African assets by inflicting names related by the colonizers and missionaries, in stories, Nigerians could reclaim their indigenous knowledge and language by reclaiming the original names. In addition, storytelling as a motivational tool has the potential to expose learners to the path of success using inspirational stories that can foster strong connection. Denning (2011) noted that much of what we know is composed of stories, and many of them describe how circumstances and situations in the past have been successfully handled. In other words, through the application of stories, adult learners can gain knowledge that will be useful for undertaking life’s arduous tasks. For example, hearing stories about conflict resolution, one could learn how to resolve a conflict. A personal life story could culminate in learning transformation and new understanding (Pfahl & Wiessner, 2007).
When people organize their experiences into stories, the resulting narrative “may be an ideal process in that it characterizes movement of development toward some future end” (Weissner & Pfahl, 2007, p. 28). Dillard (2008) has capitalized on this notion by adopting the idea of using the term African ascendant rather than descendant to describe “the upward and forward moving nature of African people through the diaspora as well as on the African continent herself” (p. 291). This is itself a decolonizing perspective. When people examine their own stories, they can examine them in relation to larger cultural contexts (Rossiter, 2002, p. 4). Adults have the potential to make changes and rewrite their lives stories (Pfahl & Wiessner, 2007), reducing their colonized world views. Storytelling allows individuals to rewrite themselves, but it can also have a larger impact: indigenous peoples who are combatting the effects of colonialism can unite a group or community and rewrite communal memory (Weissner & Pfahl, 2007).
‘Why Child’s Rights Act Still Doesn’t Apply Throughout Nigeria’
But as Nigeria operates a federal system of government, the law does not automatically become applicable in all of its 36 states. In terms of the constitution, children’s issues are the preserve of the constituent states. Each state legislature must make the national law applicable within its territory. And only 25 of the 36 states in Nigeria have localised the Child’s Rights Act.
Currently, 11 states, all in northern Nigeria, have yet to domesticate the Child’s Rights Act. There are no records of discussions or debates about the Act in these state legislatures. It has been argued that other laws, including the constitution, are able to protect children. But children in those states are still subject to practices like early marriage, female genital mutilation and begging.
Why The Law Has Not Been Adopted Fully:
Apart from the federal structure of Nigeria’s government, there are other reasons the Child’s Rights Act has not been adopted by all states. Chief of them is religion, coupled with ethnic and cultural diversity. The dominant religions in Nigeria are Christianity and Islam, with a significant population being adherents of traditional African religions.
It may be simplistic to describe Nigeria as comprising “a Muslim North” and “a Christian South”. There are significant numbers of Christians in the north and Muslims in the south. But Islam does dominate in the north, in comparison to the south.
And the Supreme Council for Shariah in Nigeria, along with some legislators from the north, characterised the Child’s Rights Act as anti-culture, anti-tradition and anti-religion. Some of the contentious issues include the definition of the child (a person below 18 years) as it pertains to child marriage, particularly for girls.
Child marriage is a prevalent practice in parts of the north. Children about the age of 10 or 12 years get betrothed or married off. While the Child’s Rights Act prohibits child betrothal and child marriage, there are other operational laws that make exceptions.
The basis for this is that in Islam, puberty is a determining factor in a (girl) child’s readiness for marriage. Fixing 18 years as the minimum age does not fit the doctrine.
Other religious concerns against the acceptance of the Child’s Rights Act include children’s right to freedom of religion, differences in the inheritance rights of male and female children, and the Shariah’s prohibition of adoption, in favour of kafalah, which distinguishes between biological and non-biological children.
By ratifying the Child’s Rights Convention and African Children’s Charter, the Nigerian government has the overall responsibility for ensuring these are implemented in a uniform and coherent manner. The government also took on the responsibility of discouraging religious, cultural, customary or traditional practices that are inconsistent with the Charter.
Yet, at the most basic level, the government is failing to live up to this obligation. Children, a most vulnerable group on account of physical and mental immaturity, bear the brunt of this inaction. They are being denied the full protection of the law. And the consequences for many children, besides child marriage and its health and other consequences, include negative impacts on their education and overall development.
With regard to education for example, the socio-cultural Almajiri system remains prevalent in the north. The practice allows children, usually from poor homes, to be sent to “Islamic boarding schools” for religious education. Many, however, end up on the streets as child beggars, seeking alms and menial jobs for daily survival.
Successive governments have failed to incorporate it as part of the formal school system, leaving children exposed to harmful practices and abuses prohibited by the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the African Children’s Charter and the Child’s Rights Act. In Nigeria, recruitment of these child beggars by terrorist organisations such as Boko Haram is a real threat or option.
Children Need Uniform Protection
The Child’s Rights Act and the African Children’s Charter define a child as a person below 18 years. But various laws in Nigeria define children differently and for various purposes. The government needs to take the lead in harmonising the various definitions in conformity with these international and regional laws.
A constitutional amendment would ensure unification across the nation. It should leave no loopholes for contradictory laws, particularly at the state and local levels or based on religion or customs. But a constitutional amendment is a Herculean task, hampered by some of the obstacles facing the Child’s Rights Act. It should consider the multi-cultural and multi-religious nature of Nigerian society but focus on the best interest of all children.
While the constitution does not expressly declare Nigeria to be a secular state, a harmonious approach to law making that does not vilify religion is in the best interests of the child. Religious and traditional leaders are “gatekeepers” who cannot be jettisoned. Negotiations with them should not devalue their religion, but get them to become drivers of change for the benefit of children.
The importance of public education campaigns about the issues cannot be over emphasised. The voices of children must also be amplified. Increasingly, examples from the world over show that the power to cause real change begins with the populace. In other words, political will can be secured via a bottom-up rather than top-down approach.
States that have domesticated the Child’s Rights Act also have a role to play in challenging the remaining 11 states to do the same. They can do this by showing concrete evidence of the change in the lives of children in those states.
There is no strong case to be made for domestication if it has not translated into fulfilled rights for children. For example, female genital mutilation, a prohibited harmful traditional practice, is still common in parts of southern Nigeria.
Ultimately, where children are concerned, all actions must be in their best interests. The first step in that regard is applying the Child’s Rights Act across the country.
By: Usang Maria Assim
Assim is of the University of Western Cape.
Three Years Of COVID -19: What Hope For Children?
COVID-19 has been a uniquely dis-equalising crisis. It is a universal crisis and for some children, the impact may be lifelong.
Children and young people are not the face of this pandemic, but they risk being its biggest victims.
The economic crisis generated by COVID-19 threatens to hit children and families the hardest.
According to analysis by Florish Data Visualisation, even before the pandemic struck, 591 million children, that is almost one in three children in the mostly low and middle income countries were considered poor by national definitions.
The vast majority of them lived in Sub-Sahara Africa and South Asia.
As families lost their sources of income and home environments turned upside down due to the devastating effects of COVID 19, children and young people found themselves more vulnerable to poverty and deprivation of their basic needs.
Available data on the impact of unemployment and the loss of parents, income due to COVID-19 pandemic are not disaggregated by age and do not reflect the realities faced by children around the world.
According to reports, impact of COVID-19 on the welfare of households with children from data collected in 35 countries including Nigeria states that households with three or more children were most likely to have lost income with more than three quarters experiencing a reduction in earnings. The report also states that income losses have left adults in one in four households with children going without food for a day or more.
Adults in nearly half of households with children reported skipping a meal due to lack of money.
“The modest progress made in reducing child poverty in recent years risks being reversed in all parts of the world. Families have expressed loss at a staggering scale. Last year,2021, inflation reached its highest level in years, more than two thirds of households with children brought in less money. Families could not afford food or essential health care services. They could not afford housing. It was a dire picture and the poorest households were pushed even deeper in poverty”, said Sanjay Wijesekera, UNICEF Director of Programme Group.
Meanwhile, Nigeria was particularly vulnerable to the economic impacts of COVID-19 due to the absence of a functioning social security system capable of providing support to households that lost jobs and income during the crisis.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet noted in 2021 that although the pandemic has brought into sharp focus the importance of the right to social security, over 70 percent people worldwide had no or only partial social security coverage.
Nigeria‘s Constitution does not provide a legal right to social security. Nigerian laws create no entitlements to unemployment or child benefits.
However, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Bank have urged a rapid expansion of social protection systems for children and their families support may include the delivery of cash transfers and the universalisation of child benefits which are critical investments that can help lift families out of economic distress and help them prepare for future shocks. Since the start of the pandemic, more than 200 countries or territories have introduced thousands of social protection measures and the World Bank has supported countries with approximately $125 billion.
By: Ibinabo Ogolo
Children And Adolescents More Vulnerable To Malaria Disease -Report
At global level,the most vulnerable group to malaria deaths are children under five years old and in 2019 alone, they accounted for 55 percent of total deaths. Also, 80% – 90% of the deaths each year are in the rural sub-Saharan Africa.
Malaria is the world’s fourth leading cause of death in children and adolescents. Malaria is preventable and curable, however, the lack of prevention and treatment due to poverty, war and other economic instabilities in endemic areas, results in millions of deaths each year.
According to 2020 World Malaria Report, Nigeria had the highest number of global malaria cases(27% of global malaria cases) in 2019 and accounted for the highest number of deaths(23% of global malaria deaths).
Malaria is a life-threatening disease caused by parasites that are transmitted to people through the bites of infected female Anopheles mosquitoes.
There are five parasite species that cause malaria in humans and two of these species are P-falciparum and P-vivax, they pose the greatest threat. P-falciparum is the deadliest malaria parasite and the most prevalent on the African continent.
In 2007, the World Health Organisation (WHO) generated the idea of World Malaria Day from Africa Malaria Day which is an event that African governments observed against the disease beginning from 2001.
At the 60th session of the World Health Assembly which was sponsored by the WHO, it was proposed that African Malaria Day be changed to World Malaria Day. This was aimed at bringing greater awareness to the global fight and to recognise the existence of malaria across the globe.
However, the World Malaria Day which is observed annually every 25th April was to bring global attention to the effort being made to bring an end to malaria.
This year 2022 theme: “Harness innovation to reduce the malaria disease burden and save lives” aimed to highlight the importance of investment in new tools as well as more effective use of available methods to prevent, diagnose and treat malaria particularly in worse hit countries.
Here in Rivers State, the government marked the World Malaria Day by reiterating its political will and commitment to reduce malaria disease burden among its people.
This was stated by the state Deputy Governor, Dr Ipalibo Harry Banigo in a goodwill message to commemorate World Malaria Day 2022.
She noted that since the inception of the administration of Chief Nyesom Wike in Rivers State, the prevalence rate of malaria has reduced significantly, adding that, the state prevalence rate of malaria was 11.3 against the national prevalence of 24 percent.
Meanwhile, Permanent Secretary, Rivers State Ministry of Health, Dr Ndidi Chikaenele Utchay has called on the people of Rivers State to ensure that they get tested for malaria disease and also to endeavour to sleep under Insecticide Treated Bed-Nets (ITBNS) in order to prevent mosquito bites. She described the treated nets as a sure safeguard against mosquitoes, noting that they are safe for use.
A report by BMC Journal on Public Health stated that children and adolescents between the ages of 5 and 19 in malaria endemic African countries are the most vulnerable group to be affected by malaria.
However, the hope of ending malaria disease recieved a boost in 2021 when the World Health Organisation (WHO) approved the use of first ever malaria vaccine. WHO estimates that the vaccine could save the lives of an additional 40,000 to 80,000 African children each year.
The vaccine RTS,S or mosquirix, is not just the first for malaria but also the first developed for any parasitic disease. The vaccine was found to surpass the 75 percent efficiency goal set by WHO for a malaria vaccine to receive a nod.
Although WHO said the vaccines could save tens of thousands of young lives each year, there are concerns it may not get to the children and young people who are most vulnerable to the disease. Health experts say children and young people mostly miss out on vaccination due to inaccessibility of vaccines and poor awareness by parents about their importance.
According to WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti, “the vaccine supplies are limited. As such it is important that the doses that are available are utilised for maximum impact, while ensuring continued availability of other preventive measures to those most at risk.”
Dr Moeti said RTS,S vaccine pilots have sealed implementation in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi which reached up to 900,000 children. This require a focus on research and leveraging on available evidence to ensure that targeted interventions are efficient use of resources to produce measurable results.
Recent findings to avoid malaria infection include application of mosquito repellent with DEET (di ethyl toluamide) to exposed skin, drape mosquito netting over beds, put screens on windows and door, treat clothing, mosquito nets, tents, sleeping bags and other fabrics with an insect repellent called permethrin.
Meanwhile, a report from the World Health Organisation Strategic Advisory Group on Malaria Eradication has called for renewed research and development(R & D) to boost eradication efforts.
The latest World Malaria Report showed that US $ 851 million is needed in the period 2021-2030 for R & D into malaria vaccines,antimalarial medicines,new technologies for vector control and innovations to tackle mosquito resistance to insecticides.
By: Ibinabo Ogolo
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