As COVID-19 has spread in Nigeria, Africa’s most populated country, so have myths about the virus, especially among children. A Nigerian author has written a children’s book to help them understand the pandemic and ways to avoid being infected.
A team of educators arrives at a government school in Abuja. Equipped with books, face masks and sanitizers, they’re here to educate schoolchildren about the coronavirus pandemic and personal hygiene.
The initiative is the brainchild of team leader Raquel Kasham Daniel, a Nigerian author and founder of the nonprofit Beyond the Classroom Foundation.
She started the foundation 11 years ago to help make education accessible to vulnerable children. But she said when COVID-19 hit Nigeria last year, she had to focus on teaching children how to stay safe or reduce their risk of contracting the virus through her books.
“Because COVID was evolving, I knew we’ll not have one edition of the book,” she said. “So, we’ve had different editions of the book where I’ve had to update it from time to time. The support that we’ve received has mostly come from social media and some funders who have seen our work.”
The COVID-19 children’s book is titled There’s a New Virus in Town. It contains colorful images, along with text, to help children better understand the coronavirus. It also contains a quiz at the end where children can guess the next character or topic.
Twelve-year-old Jemila Abdul read it at the Abuja school.
“I’ll wash my hands regularly, and I’ll wear face masks, keep social distances, and keep my compound clean,” she said.
Nine-year-old Peculiar Oyewole said he’ll keep safe in order to keep his friends safe.
“I was angry because the coronavirus killed so many people,” he said. “I don’t want it to kill my friends.”
Nigeria has recorded more than 200,000 cases of the coronavirus, but authorities say myths and misinformation about the pandemic continue to spread, and children are among the most susceptible.
Daniel’s program, which has reached some 14,000 children so far, is helping to address this problem not only in schools but also among vulnerable groups.
“Some will say only older people are dying because God wants to save the children, that God is cleaning the Earth,” Daniel said. “We heard all sorts of things. So, what we do with our volunteers is to teach them and arm them with information about this myth and teach them (that) when you get on the field, this is how to debunk it.”
Nigerian authorities have been making efforts to educate the public and try to overcome misinformation, which authorities blame for a slow vaccine uptake.
But in the meantime, Daniel will be having an impact on kids.