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This Nigerian chess club is helping slum kids checkmate hopelessness5 minutes read

The goal of the club is to provide a space to play and learn the game for the young inhabitants of the slum

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This Nigerian chess club is helping slum kids checkmate hopelessness
Chess consultant and player Tunde Onakoya (C) displays a copy of a chess magazine showing a photograph of world Chess champion Magnus Carlson during a tutorial with children at Ogolonto in Ikorodu district of Lagos on August 17, 2019. -In front of chess boards in Lagos, children are busy, concentrating. They are thinking about the next move they will make, as part of a project that is supposed to bring hope to a slum in Nigeria's megapolis. (Photo by PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP)

Crowds of children bustle around chessboards in Nigeria’s Lagos, figuring out their next moves as part of a project aimed at bringing hope in one of the city’s impoverished slums.

Dozens of matches are played simultaneously as participants, as young as three, master a game often considered out of reach for the masses in Africa’s most populous country.

“Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose,” 24-year-old teacher Tunde Onakoya tells his young charges after getting their attention.

“But it’s how you respond that makes you a champion. Don’t get down when you lose, don’t feel like you can’t do it, just concentrate and do your best.”

Seasoned player Onakoya started the Chess in Slums project last September in the sprawling neighbourhood of Ikorodu, a place where residents often feel cut off from the bustle and business of the vibrant megacity around it. 

The goal of the club is to provide a space to play and learn the game for the young inhabitants of the slum, many of whom are not in school and work to support their families.

This Nigerian chess club is helping slum kids checkmate hopelessness
Children sit under a canopy as they play during a chess class at Ogolonto in Ikorodu district of Lagos on August 17, 2019. (Photo by PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP)

Held beneath a makeshift tent in the courtyard of a local bar, in less than a year, the programme has already drawn an enthusiastic following. 

As elderly men sip beer and watch football nearby, a dozen volunteers divide the pupils into groups.  

While some turn their figures into battling action heroes, most are focused and intent on winning.

The youngest children sing rhymes about chess to help them master the rules, as the older ones settle down into intense games. 

They use mobile phone apps to time their moves and record the matches in notepads to review their mistakes and successes later. 

“I want to be a Grandmaster,” one of the children tells reporters, laughing.

‘Food for your brain’ –

Chess — a board game famous for its reliance on strategy — has a tiny but avid following in Nigeria.

The country ranks 88th out of 186 countries, according to the FIDE World Chess Federation’s rating of top players across the globe, but still does not have any Grandmasters.

This Nigerian chess club is helping slum kids checkmate hopelessness
Children raise their hands during a tutorial in a chess class under a canopy at Ogolonto in Ikorodu district of Lagos on August 17, 2019. (Photo by PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP)

Other board games are more popular.

Nigeria is a superpower in Scrabble, winning multiple championships and boasting 29 of the top 100 players in the world, more than any other country.

Onakoya says that chess has lagged behind in part due to an image problem.

“There’s this perception of it as being a really difficult game, not as accessible, like for people of a different class,” he says.

Onakoya took chess in primary school and works with private schools as a consultant to add it to their curricula.

“I believe in the game because it helps your cognition, your creativity, your focus. It’s like food for your brain,” he said. 

Last year, he started the club in Ikorodu specifically to reach disadvantaged children.

“Ikorodu is the kind of place where there’s a lot of troubles and poverty. It is a tough place to get to, if you tell someone to come to Ikorodu they will laugh,” he says.

“I felt it would be powerful to help children here because many of them are really talented. If they could master a game that people wouldn’t expect them to even know, it could really show them their potential and give them confidence.”

School sponsorship –

The club already boasts several success stories. 

Ten-year-old Odunayo Olukoya joined Chess in Slums in January. Four months later, she came first in the national chess championship for her age group. 

For Jamiu Ninilowo, 14, taking part has also been transformative. 

The skinny boy worked as a mechanic fixing cars at a garage in Ikorodu instead of attending school. 

He had to earn money for his family after his mother’s leg was mangled in an accident as she picked scrap at a local refuse site to sell on for a meagre profit.

In February, Ninilowo joined the club and is now its best player. 

This Nigerian chess club is helping slum kids checkmate hopelessness
Fourteen-year-old mechanic Jamiu Ninilowo holds a medal he won following a chess tournament at Ogolonto in Ikorodu district of Lagos, on August 17, 2019. (Photo by PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP)

After he won a tournament in April, an impressed donor partnered with Chess in Slums to pay for his secondary education.

“Chess is helping me to be a mechanical engineer by sending me to school,” he tells reporters, proudly wearing the medal he won.

The attention that the project has generated has helped shine a spotlight on more of these marginalised children.

Videos of the budding chess masters shared on Instagram also showcase some of their other talents that have often been overlooked in the struggle to survive. 

One 11-year-old boy even got mentorship from a leading Nigerian architect after he was seen building models out of cardboard. 

“At first, it was about teaching the kids a game that can impact the way they think and boost their confidence, but actually it’s become much more. It’s become a gateway to other opportunities,” says Onakoya.

“It is helping us show them that their lives can go far beyond Ikorodu.”

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Ghana Signs 5-Year Deal With Afro Nation

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Afro Nation

The Ghanaian government has reportedly signed a new five-year deal with the organizers of Afro Nation. According to this agreement, the much-celebrated music festival will be held annually in Ghana till 2025.

This was revealed via a tweet by Gabby Otchere Darko, a close aide to President Nana Addo and a leading member of the NPP.

“Ghana signs a five-year deal for Afro Nation to be hosted annually in Ghana. Fantastic news for traders and ravers! #UKAfricaInvestmentSummit #ChristmasIsGhana #GhanaBeyondTheReturn,” he shared.

The 3-day concert which held 27th between 30th December 2019 featured some of Africa’s biggest stars including Davido, Shatta Wale, Wizkid, Stonebwoy, Burna Boy, Zlatan Ibile, Naira Marley. Mayorkun and Kofi Kinaata. It was also headlined by popular American singer and rapper, 6lack.

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5 Albums We Are Excited About In 2020

Building up on the success of the previous year, 2020 promises a lot of amazing music.

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2019 was quite an interesting year for African music. Heralded by Nigeria’s Afrobeats, records out of the continent penetrated the Western markets and sparked impressive engagements across the world. 

Burna Boy’s album “African Giant” secured a Grammy nomination and also topped the end of the year lists of many international publications. Beyoncé also featured an all-star cast of some of the biggest names across the continent on her  “The Lion King.” Of course, this helped to reintroduce them to new markets and thrust their names in global music conversations. 

Building up on the success of the previous year, 2020 looks to promise a lot of amazing music. Here is a list of the five albums we are excited to get our hands on in 2020. 

Wizkid – Made In Lagos

Ever since the release of his international project, “Sounds From The Other Side,” fans across Africa have been clamouring for the release of Wizkid’s fourth full-length, “Made in Lagos” which he himself has been teasing for quite a while title. Last year, Wizkid took to his Instagram to tease snippets of a couple of songs expected to be on the project. And with the official release of his 2019 singles, ‘Joro’ and ‘Ghetto Love’, fans and general music lovers are fully ready for the long-teased Wizkid project this year. 

Khaligraph Jones – TBA

Coming off his big win at the 2020 Soundcity MVP Awards, picking up the Best Hip-hop act trophy over heavyweights like Sarkodie, Kwesta and Falz, the time is ripe for a new album Kenyan rapper. Popular for his distinct rapid-fire flow,  Khaligraph Jones has been at the helm of Kenya’s hip-hop over the years. With the anticipated follow-up to his 2018 debut album, “Testimony 1900,” he’d seek to reassert his dominance this year in the region and the continent.

Adekunle Gold – Afropop

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2019 witnessed a turning point in Adekunle Gold’s artistry and public image. With releases like ‘Young Love’ and Before You Wake Up’ in 2019, Adekunle Gold’s sound has morphed into something more pop-centric, substituting the traditional African sound for something more synthetic. The singer has also been more expressive with his fashion and outlook. This, therefore, makes his next project “Afropop” one to look out for, as we’d love to find an Adekunle Gold shed his signature sound for something more pop and trendy.

 Sho Madjozi – TBA

South African rapper, Sho Madjozi was one of the most exciting acts out of the continent last year. Coming off the success of her 2018 debut album “Limpopo Champions League,” the singer went on to release her hit record ‘John Cena’, a song even the WWE superstar himself approves. Sho Madjozi went on to enjoy an amazing press run that kept her in everyone’s face. And now, she has built up so much hype around herself that her fans across the continent are waiting for what she plans to release next. 

Shatta Wale – TBA 

Undoubtedly one of Africa’s most controversial superstars, Ghana’s Shatta Wale is one known for his consistency across his album. Ever since 2016, not a year has gone by without a project from the self-crowned dancehall king. And given the quality of his stellar 2018 and 2019 releases, “Reign” and “Wonder Boy,” many are already wondering what king Shatta would come up with next.

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Sniffing out the menace called poaching

The role of man’s best friend in the war against poaching

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Dogs have been instrumental over the years in the war against wildlife poachers. Photo credit: Smithsonian Magazine

There is an old saying that borders on hunters learning to shoot without aiming, since birds have learned to fly without perching. In the same vein, as perpetrators of illegal activities devise new ways to escape detection and punishment, those dedicated to apprehending them need to, in turn, implement new methods to remain one step ahead. The war against wildlife poaching still rages on as the years roll by, but in recent times, poachers and smugglers have had to deal with a new adversary: man’s best friend.

In hunting for hides, skin, horns and tusks, these people, whose life’s work is to put wildlife at risk for material gain, have deployed all sorts of modern weaponry in furthering their cause, but now they will have to deal with dogs, too. Deployed in various locations across six African countries, there are scores of these dogs, who have helped in tracking down smugglers and traffickers with their efficiency in sniffing out elephant tusks, rhino horns and pangolin scales.

Since Canines for Conservation, the programme initiated to involve dogs in the fight against wildlife poaching, kicked off in 2011, there have been 400 seizures of illegal wildlife products. These days, wildlife authorities in Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Mozambique, Botswana and Cameroon require employees to be skilled in dog handling. Employees who take up the handling of dogs undergo training programmes which stretch for up to 10 weeks, and they are also carefully matched with the dogs that they would be working with.

Wild animals are being poached on a massive scale, with millions of individual animals of thousands of species worldwide killed or captured from their native habitats. Poaching poses a growing threat to elephants, rhinos, and other charismatic animals. Some animals, such as birds, reptiles, and primates, are captured live so that they can be kept or sold as exotic pets. Slaughtered animals, on the other hand, have commercial value as food, jewellery, decor, or traditional medicine. The ivory tusks of African elephants, for example, are carved into trinkets or display pieces. The meat of apes, snakes, and other bush animals is considered a delicacy in parts of Africa.

Poaching has devastating consequences for wildlife. In some instances, it’s the primary reason why an animal faces a risk of extinction. This is the case with the African elephant, more than 100,000 of which were killed between 2014 and 2017 for ivory. Poaching has also had a catastrophic impact on rhinos, with more than a thousand slaughtered a year for their horns.

Training these dogs to top levels of detecting takes about 4 to 5 months.  All the wildlife products they are required to sniff out are hidden in various ways, from wrapping ivory in jars of coffee to putting a lion’s tooth in a thermos. The dogs sniff luggage and cargoes at airports, and the Canines for Conservation programme, aware of the tactics employed by traffickers, works closely with airport authorities in the countries where the dogs are deployed. These canine partners, whose role in fighting wildlife poachers over the years has been acknowledged, are also fed specially, and are kept in kennels and large spaces where they can relax.

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