I was one of three UK authors, along with Adisa the Verbalizer and Judy Waite, to visit this new school, which caters for both primary and secondary kids in Africa's largest city. We were greeted with enormous enthusiasm and warmth by the staff and had a great time working with the children from Y1 to Y9, all of whom were delighted to meet us.
The trip was arranged as part of the school's Book Week and one of the highlights of the visit was seeing the children's fancy dress parade where they dressed up as book characters. Can you recognise any of these?
I was delighted to be given the chance to tell KS2 children about the importance of reading and to inspire them through stories, poems, interesting facts and extracts from books. I also led a 3-hour teacher training session working with staff from several local schools across the city, helping them to instigate strategies to encourage reluctant readers and to promote reading for pleasure, something which is enormously important to every child, whether African, British or otherwise.
We were also given a guided tour of a nearby art gallery and a local market by the school's wonderful Head of Library Services, Keji, who gave us an amazing demonstration of the art of haggling as we negotiated for bargains among the craftsmen and women and sellers of Nigerian clothes and objects. We also drove around the city and saw some of the vibrant street scenes in this vast, growing city.
Nigeria has received a lot of very negative press in recent months but we found everyone we met to be friendly, welcoming and full of positive energy. This is an exciting country to be in, and we must learn not to judge a nation by the actions of a tiny faction in a distant corner or by rumours of disease.
We tried the local food (be warned - it's delicious but very spicy and strong-flavoured) and enjoyed the heat (around 30 degrees each day) although returning to -2 in the UK wearing thin clothes was a shocker! Altogether it was a memorable visit and I hope to go again one day.
|Writer Judy Waite and poet Adisa - my excellent companions for the visit|