Young champions help support the COVID-19 response in Lagos

Children become change champions within their communities as they help raise awareness on curbing the spread of the coronavirus

Aderonke Akinola-Akinwole, Communication for Development Consultant, UNICEF Nigeria
A girl shows her clean hands after handwashing
UNICEF Nigeria/2020
23 November 2020

When the government officials came to town to talk about COVID-19 best practices, 9-year-old Taofeek had some tough questions to ask. By the time they left, he had discovered he could be part of the solution.

Like millions of other children in Nigeria, Taofeek, who lives in Ipakodo community located in Ikorodu west local council development area of Lagos State, has seen his life upended by COVID-related school closures. And in his community, he has no access to internet enabled devices to benefit from the online classes.

To raise awareness about COVID-19 and promote hygienic behaviour to protect from the infection, UNICEF has supported the Lagos State Government through motorised campaigns in 20 local government areas. The campaigns worked alongside advocacy with influencers in the communities, interpersonal engagement, and mass awareness activities at major human interface locations such as markets and motor parks.

It was during one of the visits that Taofeek asked the officials: “When will the schools open again? My friends and I have no access to online learning because of a lack of internet and power supply, and I don’t have a television and radio at home. How can we stay safe during the pandemic?”

Children helping to raise awareness on curbing COVID-19 in Lagos
UNICEF Nigeria/2020
Aderonke Akinola-Akinwole, Communication for Development Consultant at UNICEF Nigeria, stands with little Taofeek and his friend as they help raise awareness on curbing the spread of the coronavirus.

While the state government has brought in radio and television education programmes as a substitute for regular schooling, not everyone is able to access or fully benefit from them.

“Children from under-served communities like Ipakodo remain marginalised,” says Aderonke Akinola-Akinwole, Communication for Development Consultant for UNICEF, who supported the motorised campaign.

The motorised campaign team informed Taofeek that the government was committed to ensuring the safety of all students, and that meant schools had to remain closed to prevent the spread of COVID-19. They also told him the government would reopen schools when it is considered safe for all the children.

While the team engaged the children by demonstrating proper hand washing, using face masks and following COVID-19 preventive guidelines, they also encouraged the children to become change champions within their communities to help spread information on proper techniques that can slow the spread of the disease. Taofeek readily accepted.

“I felt happy to join the campaign to become a COVID-19 change champion within my community”, said a beaming Taofeek. He quickly put on his face mask and encouraged his best friend to do the same to demonstrate safe behaviour. “I am thrilled to educate other children within my community by demonstrating proper hand washing techniques, use of masks, and sneezing into the elbow to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the community.”

Young champions like Taofeek can provide a boost to such campaigns and the government’s efforts in spreading awareness against COVID-19 pandemic. They are the key stakeholders as well as change makers who have proven to effectively influence their peers, families and the community at large in adopting healthy practices.

“I want to bring change in people’s behaviour to stop the spread of COVID-19,” he said.