Could aliens and superheroes help educate young Kenyans and help them overcome ethnic tensions?
Kenya’s Human Rights Commission (KHRC) is hoping that it can do just that with “Attack of the Shidas: AKAs Save Planet Earth” where the superpower our young heroes wield is tolerance and a desire for equality.
In a desert town in the far north, people from three communities depend on a borehole for all their water. But the borehole is being emptied at night. Water is running out!
The three communities accuse each other of stealing water. But then Tosha, Shana and Pato discover that they have special powers. Can they stop the thieves from sucking all the water in the borehole before war breaks out?
The KHRC developed the storybook for kids aged 9-16 after a study showed that around 6 out of 10 kids were aware of tribalism and felt compelled by their parents to discriminate against other ethnic groups.
The study was inspired primarily by a body of work that suggested not only were children affected by the post election violence of 2007/2008, but also that children as young as 15 were being recruited as part of youth militia who helped perpetrate that violence.
This created a need to find ways in which primary, secondary and teacher training programs could encourage tolerance and diversity and educate children on the issues surrounding ethnic violence and, effectively, stop them from being vulnerable to recruitment.
Three children in the town discover they have special powers as only they can see and hear the invisible water thieves that bring with them numerous other problems to the three communities. Yet nobody believes what the children have to say, because these three children possess special powers of equality and tolerance that enable them to see what others in their communities cannot see. Can the children stop the aliens before war breaks out in the town?
“Attack of the Shidas: AKAs Save the Planet” is among the first to venture into the genre of science fiction to address the very delicate and contentious issue of discrimination by providing simple and practical messages to children in an entertaining manner. The storybook has been pre-tested among pupils and students of 5 primary and one secondary school as well as 15 teachers drawn from Siaya, Kitale, Marigat, Kwale, Wajir and Nairobi (Kawangware, Kibera, Musa Gitau, Mathare and Lavington).
The book was backed by Worldreader, a non-profit organization that wants to put books into the hands of children and families in the developing world using e-book technology. Purchasing Worldreader books can also help fund school literacy programs with a portion of every sale going back into the local school system, so not only does this initiative aim to educate, it will also help to maintain itself and other literacy drives.
What’s more, the book really does seem capable of reaching its target audience.
Reports the KHRC:
According to the children who have read the storybook, its greatest attribute is that it makes children who are tolerant of ethnic and other diversities the super heroes, whose special powers come from having skills to recognise and confront discrimination in the form of hate speech, songs, poems, sayings, proverbs and even jokes in the form of ’mchongoano’ often used by children. The storybook is expected to impact on children’s knowledge, attitude and practices on equality/non-discrimination.
The background report and the book itself were formally launched on September 10 at an event officiated by Hon., Mutula Kilonzo, Minister for Education. The book, as well as being made available on Amazon, is being sold in paperback in a number of Nairobi bookstores.
Image derived from "Attack of the Shidas: AKAs Save Planet Earth," used under Fair Use terms, no infringement intended.