This article has been published in Enabling Education Review 9
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Title: Delivering social-safety child education through animations in Nigeria
Author: Nelson, B
Publisher: EENET
Date: 2020

As parents, caregivers and/or teachers we want to keep children safe from harm, but there may be times when we are not there and children must rely on their own decision-making skills to stay safe. In this article, Bidemi describes how the Shield of Innocence Initiative is developing creative ways of delivering social-safety education to very young children.

Social-safety education
A lack of social-safety child education increases child victimisation.

When children do not know the basic rules of socially safe interactions with their physical and social environments, the dangers of them being accidentally injured, abused or traumatised are increased. However, the availability of social-safety education to help children navigate situations that might threaten their safety and well-being is hugely dependent on whether parents and/or schools both understand its importance and have access to training.

We feel that social-safety education should be an integral part of a child’s education, but it is not often prioritised by parents and schools in Nigeria. When it eventually is, it is usually in response to situations where children have already been victimised. Other reasons for the non-prioritisation of social-safety education include:

  • increased parental absenteeism at home leading to lack of information on the importance of this kind of education;
  • a lack of this form of education in the school curriculum;
  • ignorance of the dangers that children can face in their physical and social environment;
  • a shortage of experts in this area of child education;
    insufficient funding for this type of education by government, schools and relevant stakeholders.

Using animations
Animations can help to disseminate social-safety child education. They can be critical tools when it comes to entertaining and educating children, especially when they are used to stimulate further discussions or activities around the topics shown. Animations are a child-friendly means of engaging children and have the potential to keep their attention for longer.

Animations have already been used in a number of countries to disseminate social-safety child education. Perhaps the most familiar are the animations that teach children about road safety and the rules that keep pedestrians safe near traffic.

In Nigeria, there are many topics that could benefit from being covered in a social-safety child education programme. These include how to navigate interactions with strangers and what to do if children find themselves in a situation of violence and child sexual exploitation. While such topics can be difficult to broach due to their sensitive nature, there is still the need for children to remain safe and animations can provide an effective way for these topics to be presented to children.

Animations can be expensive, but the returns are usually recouped within a short time (depending on viewership). Social-safety animations also have the potential to reach many children with life-saving information and can help fine-tune their interaction skills.

Early years social-safety education
The Shield of Innocence Initiative is an NGO based in Nigeria. It works to prevent all forms of child abuse by raising awareness. We have been investing in the development of animations for the purpose of disseminating social-safety child education to young children.

For example, our subtitled animated short film named ‘Don’t Wait’ tells the story of a little girl whose mother left her in the company of her friends when she was not around. Before her mother’s return, a male neighbour sends her on an errand to get him a drink. When the little girl returns from completing the errand, he invites her into his apartment to share the drink as a reward, but he adds a bit of alcohol to her drink to make her vulnerable.

The little girl gets tipsy and wants to go home but the neighbour refuses. This leads to an altercation between them and the girl narrowly escapes unscathed. The animation teaches lessons about relating with strangers, the dangers of taking recreational drugs, and the dangers of being abused when a child is not in the company of trusted family members.

The film comes with a song also titled Don’t Wait, which contains social-safety tips that children can sing along to with their family members. Songs are an effective way to deliver important messages and children can remember these messages by learning the songs.

Future aims
At the moment our workshops involve showing the children the film and then discussing important issues from the film with them. This enables us to emphasise the social-safety skills that children need to handle and gives the children and their teachers an opportunity to ask questions. We then sing the social-safety song together.

However, this method of teaching social-safety skills is not ideal for the learning needs of younger children and we need to engage their parents, care-givers and teachers for much more successful learning. We are therefore developing more creative methods of working with the animated film. These include using activities that focus on visual art, dramatisation, and more music.

We are looking for collaboration opportunities to expand the impact of our work with children, as we know that the need for children’s social-safety skills will continue. We have already visited primary schools, residential childcare centres, religious organisations and children’s departments and hope to continue our work in schools and social centres in the future. We are also exploring the use of social media to disseminate the films we create and enable our work to reach more children and child-friendly organisations.

Bidemi’s love for poetry motivated her to write this poem to reach out to parents, caregivers and teachers about the importance of prioritising social-safety education for their children or advocating for it in schools, child-friendly organisations and their communities.

Children, Children, Children
We wanted a world where children could be free
Running the course of childhood on dainty feet
Alas, twas only wishful thinking because I watch them flee
Many hurt and lost for lack of wisdom needed for the street

Children in hordes will continue to prance
Away and away they go, hands and feet in tow
But how long can they go without that fearful glance
If knowledge of social-safety, from them we slow

Children can be ready for the world
Take away the ignorance and set them free
Let them explore and not remain curled
That’s the way to see in life’s sea.

Contact: Bidemi is the CEO of the Shield of Innocence Initiative, in Ibadan, Nigeria, working to mitigate child abuse.
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