23-Year-Old Creator Of Digital Collection Of African Heroic Stories For Kids In Different Languages

by Duke Magazine

Representation cannot be overemphasized in our society because without it, some children may never come out of their shells to achieve all that lies within them. They may feel as though certain achievements in life are attainable by only a select group, meanwhile, we can all do anything we set our minds to. Dominic Onyekachi is on a mission to provide adequate representation for children through his digital collection of African stories on a web-based platform, Akiddie.

Akiddie idea was conceived with the help of Onyekachi’s two friends, Fanan and Tolulope. The stories featured on the platform are based on African history and characters for children in different languages. There are Yoruba, spoken in West Africa, Igbo in south-eastern Nigeria and Hausa, spoken in Sub-Saharan Africa translations.

Onyekachi was inspired to create this platform after storytime with his six-year-old niece revealed the sad truth. Children her age in Africa mostly had foreign books to read which did not really have much to do with African representations.

Onyekachi may have set out to create stories for his niece, but after a visit to book stores in Nigeria’s commercial center, Balogun market in Lagos, he realized that there were no books doing justice to all the wonderful things the African continent had to offer; nothing that truly shared the rich cultural experiences and achievements with these children who are in their formative stages.

Truthfully, there were books that reflected the continent alright at the market, but the target audience was those in secondary schools, too advanced for children to comprehend. Other parents or concerned adults had also noticed this trend and had left a few comments here and there online, Onyekachi found.

“I spent a whole day checking bookshops and only came out with two books. And when I went online, there were so many complaints about this problem,” he added.

What did he do? Onyekachi wanted his niece and children in and around her age to read books that reflect their culture and roots. According to CNN, he began to write stories that do just that.

“I wrote a few stories for her and I got my friend to illustrate. She liked it, her friends in school liked it too. And that’s when I really thought about writing more books and putting them in a place where many more children can access them,” he said.

The 23-year-old authored some of the books on the platform and most of the themes that run through the majority of the books are on innovation, gender equality and financial literacy. He said, “We did not want to repeat old or stereotypical ideologies in our books.”

For instance, one of the books on the digital platform, “The flying girl of Rano”, written by Onyekachi revolves around Ummi, ‘the innovator’ who creates a glider, an airplane with fixed wings for her village, Rano, an ancient Hausa kingdom.

Ummi teamed up with Queen Amina of Zaira, a Hausa warrior from the mid-16th century due to circumstances beyond her control to fight ‘the new king of Rano who was terrorizing the town.’ The king was defeated eventually, and she became Rano’s new ruler.

Onyekachi said the story is meant to inspire young girls to believe in themselves and also to depict parts of the Hausa culture.

“The story is about leadership and innovation. Because Ummi was able to use her gliders to solve a practical problem for her community. Many of the stories have their lessons and themes, all of them to share African culture, while inspiring children,” he explained. 

Akiddie currently has over 1,200 users and it has found its way into mainstream education as six schools in Lagos are using the platform in their schools.

Currently, the books on the platform have two levels, beginner and intermediate. According to him, as suggestive of the level, beginner stories are children who are being introduced to reading and the intermediate are for those already conversant with it.

“Beginner stories have fewer words and are written like poems, the intermediate stories have much more words,” he explained.

However, Onyekachi’s vision for Akiddie goes beyond the borders of Nigeria. To him, African children must have the right representation from the onset so he hopes his services would benefit other children in Africa as well.

“More children should have characters to look up, characters that have their hair, look like them and share their culture.”

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