Stepping Stones (SSNCEF) is implementing a secondary school essay competition with support from the STARS Foundation. The aim of the competition is to raise awareness about the rights of children, change attitudes and misconceptions about children and witchcraft, and give children a voice to speak out about their rights and opportunities for development. In Akwa Ibom State, where SSNCEF works, accusations of witchcraft are rife, and subsequent abuse often leads to children running away from home and eking out a living on the street.
In 2011, SSNCEF, with the Prevent Abuse of Children Today (PACT) Campaign and other partners, implemented a music and drama tour of over 60 secondary schools in Akwa Ibom State. The performances were on themes of witchcraft and child rights, and were followed by interactive sessions with students and teachers. These sessions revealed a very low awareness of child rights among both groups and a poor understanding of witchcraft issues.
The aim of the PACT Campaign is to mobilize individuals, organizations and churches, to stand up for children’s rights and fight against the abuse of children; challenge the belief in child witches; and highlight the plight of child trafficking victims. The essay competition aims to follow up on this lack of awareness by taking the PACT Campaign into secondary schools around the state.
Firstly, School Child Rights Clubs will be formed in secondary schools around the State. Later, the competition itself will be based on the children’s book ‘Eno Story’ – authored by Ayodele Olofintuade and published by Cassava Republic for Stepping Stones Nigeria and the PACT Campaign – which shows how Eno uses courage and imagination when she finds herself being accused of witchcraft. The book will be made available to schools, and the students will be expected to read it. They will then be required to write an essay on how the feel about the subject matter, what the problem is, how it affects them, the lessons they’ve learnt, and proffer the way forward. At the end of the event, a communiqué drawn from ideas from the best entries will be disseminated to the government, civil society groups, and the press.
The competition will run from September – November 2012.
You can read Eno’s Story here.