Nigerian children sketch it out

In Lagos, the commercial capital of Nigeria, some boys have started sketching their feelings about the COVID-19 crisis  -  and how the lockdown has affected them

Rita Abiodun, Communication Assistant, UNICEF Nigeria
A boy in Lagos sketching a drawing
UNICEF Nigeria/2020/Adewole
19 August 2020

As the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 continues to rise in Nigeria, major cities in the country are on lockdown. Schools remain closed, and the impact of the crisis is hitting families hard, especially vulnerable households.

For many children, homeschooling has become the norm. Play is restricted, as children cannot leave the confines of their homes.

In Lagos, the commercial capital of Nigeria, some boys have started sketching their feelings about the crisis — and how the lockdown is affecting them, their families and their communities, with the help of the Ayowole Academy of Arts.

A boy in Lagos sketching a drawing
UNICEF Nigeria/2020/Adewole

Eight-year-old Sulaimon Farouk misses his friends and teachers in school. “When I was in school, I used to play ball with my friend, Reuben, and my teacher used to teach us a lot of things. Just when we were about to start our third term exam, they sent us home because of the coronavirus,” Sulaimon said.

8-year-old Sulaimon Farouk beside his self-portrait
UNICEF Nigeria/2020/Adewole
8-year-old Sulaimon Farouk beside his self-portrait

Nostalgic about his time in school, Sulaimon drew a portrait of himself holding a book, with tears trickling down his cheeks.

“I drew myself crying, holding a book, looking up to God and praying in my mind that this coronavirus will go. Whenever I see my school bag, I remember my teachers and friends. I don’t know when I am going to see my friends and my teacher again, but I hope to see them soon.”

A boy in Lagos sketching a drawing
UNICEF Nigeria/2020/Adewole
Michael Gajilo depicts the impact of COVID-19 on his family

14-year-old Michael Gajilo , who also loves to paint and sketch, was initially excited when the lockdown was declared in Lagos State, because that meant taking a break from schoolwork. 

As the lockdown continued, the reality of the situation dawned on him. “I created this artwork to show the situation of coronavirus and how it affects my family and average Nigerians,” said Michael.

A sketch of the impact of COVID-19
UNICEF Nigeria/2020/Adewole

“The three chickens in the cage represent my family. The cage represents the lockdown order by the government. The corn represents food, opportunities and knowledge,” said Michael. 

“I painted the chicken’s comb red because red symbolises energy. I realised that my parent’s energy was useless now, because they are not working and if that continues, we will end up not eating.”

13-year-old Pius Divine Tonna standing beside his drawing
UNICEF Nigeria/2020/Adewole
13-year-old Pius Divine Tonna standing beside his drawing

Anger and frustration have resulted in social upheaval in some parts of Nigeria, especially Lagos. 

“The robbery going on around my area and the way people now yell at each other inspired this drawing,” said Pius.

Pius Divine Tonna depicts a man frustrated by the poverty worsened by COVID-19
UNICEF Nigeria/2020/Adewole
Pius Divine Tonna depicts a man frustrated by the poverty worsened by COVID-19

Pius hopes the Nigerian government will provide palliatives to ease the hardships being experienced by vulnerable communities. 

“The reaction on the man’s face shows his frustration. I am pleading with the government to give citizens things they need, like food and money.”

14-year-old Okeshina Fawas beside his self-portrait
UNICEF Nigeria/2020/Adewole
14-year-old Okeshina Fawas beside his self-portrait

14-year-old Okeshina Fawas wanted to share an inspiring lesson he learned from the COVID-19 lockdown through a self-portrait. 

“Before coronavirus came to Nigeria, my dad worked every day to feed the family. He loves to save and encouraged me to do the same. When the lockdown came, my dad was able to use the little money he had saved to feed us,” said Fawas.

Sketch on the impact of COVID-19
UNICEF Nigeria/2020/Adewole

“As the lockdown got extended, the money my father had saved was exhausted. I decided to break my piggy bank and give the little money I had saved to my dad to feed us. Through this drawing, I wanted to tell people to save, because anything unexpected can happen in the future.”

14-year-old Taiwo Monday with his drawing
UNICEF Nigeria/2020/Adewole
14-year-old Taiwo Monday with his drawing

In order to prevent the COVID-19 virus from spreading, health experts are urging people to practice physical distancing. 14-year-old Taiwo shared his experience with practicing physical distancing and his initial reaction.

“Just before the lockdown started, I saw one of my friends coming from school and wanted to shake his hand to say hello to him as usual — but he asked me not to come close to him.”

Taiwo Monday's drawing represents the need to physically distance while staying socially connected
UNICEF Nigeria/2020/Adewole
Taiwo Monday's drawing represents the need to physically distance while staying socially connected

It was then that the severity of the situation dawned on him. Taiwo now understands that physical distancing is critical in fighting COVID-19. Through his drawing, he illustrates the importance of practicing physical distancing, while remaining socially connected to close friends.