Effective journalism (2)
Donu Kogbara

By Donu Kogbara

LAST week on this page, I complained about the fact that most mainstream journalists in this country, me included, are too easy on Nigerian VIPs – inept and corrupt government officials in particular.

In a nutshell, I praised foreign journalists for being effective because they conduct proper interviews and investigations and don’t allow foreign VIPs to get away with nonsense; and I accused the Nigerian branch of my profession of not being effective enough.

Instead of fearlessly exposing and relentlessly hounding powerful people who misbehave, we either turn a blind eye and don’t bother to expose them at all…or grumble about their often massive misdemeanours for a couple of weeks, then shrug and move on.

This week, I want to switch sides and praise Nigerian journalists for being less neurotic about the new Omicron variant of the COVID-19 virus than their counterparts in Europe and the United States.

I am not an irresponsible pandemic denier or paranoid conspiracy theorist. I believe that COVID-19 is real and know that it can be fatal. I am aware that it has claimed many victims across the globe. I vigorously supported various governments when they told us to mask up, socially distance, lockdown, etc. I have been vaccinated three times.

But the Omicron variant that suddenly descended on the world a few weeks ago is not as toxic as its predecessor and is not a killer.

Omicron is, so far at least, pretty unscary, if you ask me. Almost everyone who has been infected by Omicron has easily endured mild-ish flu-like symptoms that have disappeared quite quickly.

I, therefore, do not understand why normally rational distinguished international media outlets – publications galore and TV stations like the BBC, CNN and Sky – are allowing it to dominate their coverage.

The endless back-to-back reports about the spread of Omicron are wearying. The way they carry on, you’d think that Armageddon is imminent and that Omicron is the worst challenge humanity faces.

Meanwhile, people who are suffering from cancer and other frankly more serious ailments are being neglected. I’m told that some have even passed away, while medics prioritise “The Omicron Crisis”.

Nigerian journalists are much less obsessed and are providing more balanced coverage about goings-on in Nigeria and the world at large.

Am I wrong to think that our foreign colleagues are wrong?

You tell me!

The spirit of Christmas

IN just one day last week, the British public donated £9.5 million to feed millions of children facing starvation in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan…even though 457 UK soldiers died in Afghanistan and even though the British were never warmly welcomed by Afghans.

That is what I call the spirit of Christmas. Child Life-Line, CLL, is a non-profit, charitable association funded entirely by voluntary donations from individuals and organisations.

My friend, Aduke Gomez, a talented poet and philanthropist, is one of its leading lights and she sent me the following description of CLL’s activities: “We help children living rough and on their own on the streets of Lagos, seeking to reconnect them with family and get them back into school or vocational training.

“Our daytime reception centre for boys and girls at Gbagada provides two meals a day, a place to shower and wash, counselling and family tracing. At our residential home for boys in Ikorodu, children are put back into full-time education or vocational training and cared for until they can be reunited with family or until they complete their chosen course of study or training.

“We work hard to improve the lives of our children, whenever possible giving them a chance to enjoy the fun and laughter every child is entitled to.

Oworo back-to-school project

“In this deprived part of Lagos, many children are out of school due to poverty. Although state schools are free, there are nevertheless associated costs that parents here can’t afford (uniforms, shoes, books, registration fees – in some cases the children haven’t even got birth certificates and need to be helped with that process as well before they can be registered in a school).

“In 2020 CLL started a project to get 100 primary age children into school (or back into school where they had dropped out due to poverty) over a three-year period, placing the children in public schools, paying all educational costs, and providing psycho-social support.

“With support from the community, we have organised extra classes for the children after school and during the holidays to help them catch up on their missed schooling. We hope to be able to support these children through primary school and higher education.

“In addition, we are building the capacity of families through training on parental care, child protection and safe guarding, and the rights of the child under the Child Rights Act of Lagos State.

“Working with community leaders and local government, we are also building the economic capacity of families through crafts and skills acquisition courses for women.

“Ford Foundation and the Consortium for Street Children/Red Nose Day have supported us for the first year of the project; we need your help to support these children going forward.

“Our children’s home at Ibeshe, Ikorodu, accommodates up to 34 boys at a time, ranging in age from seven to 17, all of whom we place back in school or in some form of vocational training. Efforts continue whilst they are there, to reunite them with family and, where this is not possible, to establish and maintain regular contact with family members.

Reception Centre: CLL runs a drop-in Reception Centre at Gbagada, that sees approximately 90 girls and boys a week, coming in every day for two meals, a chance to shower and rest in a safe environment, basic medical checks and health care, classes in basic literacy and life skills, help and counselling, and family tracing services.”

If you want to embrace the Christmas Spirit and do something for these youngsters during this festive season,  CLL’s contact details are: T: +234 (0)803 3621617 E: [email protected]

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