Nigerian Academy Looks To Spread Ballet In Lagos

A student of the Leap of Dance Academy, Olamide Olawale, A student of the Leap of Dance Academy, Olamide Olawale, performs a dance routine in Okelola street in Ajangbadi, Lagos, on July 3, 2020. Benson Ibeabuchi / AFP

 

A small group of Nigerian girls and boys wearing leotards and leggings limber up in a spare room at a run-down primary school with patches of damp on the walls.

They launch into pirouettes and arabesques but have to make do without music. Today, the stereo is not working, because there is no electricity.

This is Leap of Dance Academy — a ballet school in a poor district of sprawling megacity Lagos that aims to bring classical dance to underprivileged children in Africa’s most populous nation.

 

Two students practice a dance routine during rehearsals at the Leap of Dance Academy in Ajangbadi, Lagos, on July 3, 2020. Benson Ibeabuchi / AFP

 

The school is the brainchild of self-taught ballet aficionado Daniel Ajala, who opened its doors in late 2017 after studying the dance moves online and in books.

Now the academy — which Ajala funds out of his own pocket — has 12 pupils aged between six and 15.

The lessons are free and shoes and kit provided to the children, most of whom had never heard of ballet before they got involved.

“Ballet is for people who have money, who are very high class, because ballet is expensive,” Ajala tells AFP.

 

Benson Ibeabuchi / AFP

 

“In this area, I know we can’t actually afford the luxury of ballet, or dance education — so I think it’s a beautiful art to introduce to our people here.”

He says locals in the neighbourhood of Ajangbadi were sceptical at first about his plan to teach ballet.

“When we started ballet here, people were like ‘what are they doing? Is it not indecent? It’s not a Christian dance!'”

Dance tutor Daniel Ajala (L) shows the students ballet stretch routines during rehearsals at Leap of Dance Academy in Ajangbadi, Lagos on July 3, 2020. Benson Ibeabuchi / AFP

 

“We want to make sure to show them that this is not a bad dance — ballet is a very disciplined, forward dance that is very important in the growth of a child.”

 

Now after several years of training and effort the dancers have gained more acceptance.

And when they practice their moves outside around the area they now draw admiring – if sometimes still confused – glances.

 

Students of the Leap of Dance Academy pose for portrait in at Ajangbadi, Lagos, on July 3, 2020. Benson Ibeabuchi / AFP

 

Ballet has provided an inspiration and window onto unknown cultures for 15-year-old student Olamide Olawole.

She has even begun thinking of becoming a dance teacher herself.

“My dream is to make children around the world to be able to share the same dance experience,” she says.

“I want them to be able to express their feelings through dance.”

Ifoma Madu watches on with pride as her son Anthony Madu performs a grand jete leap alongside his classmates.

Benson Ibeabuchi / AFP

 

“I feel great, I feel wonderful, I’m very excited,” she told AFP.

“When I see him dancing, it gives me joy.”

Pandemic Puts Up To 86 Million Children At Risk Of Poverty – Study

Children sit on the ground as they hold their containers filled with porridge received during a breakfast distribution for children by the non-profit organisation and charity group “Hunger has no Religion”, at an underprivileged area, in Westbury suburb, in Johannesburg, on May 23, 2020.

 

The economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic could push as many as 86 million more children into poverty by the end of 2020, a joint study by Save the Children and UNICEF showed Wednesday.

That would bring the total number of children affected by poverty worldwide to 672 million, an increase of 15 per cent over last year, the two aid agencies said in a statement.

Nearly two-thirds of those children overall live in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.

But the pandemic-driven increase is expected to occur mainly in Europe and Central Asia, according to the study, which is based on World Bank and International Monetary Fund projections and population data from some 100 countries.

“The scale and depth of financial hardship among families threatens to roll back years of progress in reducing child poverty and to leave children deprived of essential services,” UNICEF executive director Henrietta Fore is quoted as saying in the statement.

With immediate and decisive action, “we can prevent and contain the pandemic threat facing the poorest countries and some of the most vulnerable children,” added Save the Children head Inger Ashing.

They are “highly vulnerable to even short periods of hunger and malnutrition — potentially affecting them for their whole life,” she warns in the statement.

The two organizations call on governments to rapidly expand their social security systems and school feeding to limit the effects of the pandemic.

COVID-19: FG Considers Sectionalising Classes Ahead Of Reopening Of Schools

 

The Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 has said that the Federal Government is considering sectionalising classes for primary, secondary, and tertiary institutions in the country ahead of the reopening of schools amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The Minister of State for Education, Emeka Nwajiuba, stated this on Wednesday during a briefing by the Task Force in Abuja.

He also debunked reports that schools are set to reopen on June 8.

According to him, they are all false.

“Until we are sure that these children can go to school, return safely and not bring home with them, this COVID material, and infect people who are more susceptible to the disease than they are, then we are running a huge risk and god forbid that in our hurry, something happens to our children, I’m not sure how anybody will be able to retrieve what would have been lost.

“So we are not taking that risk yet. We are going to prepare as much as possible, within the guidance that they (health authorities) offer us, working in conjunction with the World Health Organisation before we reopen schools,” the minister said.

[Read Also] May 27: We Must Continue To Offer Our Children The Best, Atiku Urges Nigerians

Nwajiuba, however, explained that while it is still currently not safe to reopen schools, plans are being made to see how the system can keep running despite the pandemic.

He said a publication would be released shortly as to what the re-opening of schools should look like, post-COVID.

“We are not talking about coping with COVID – there’s a difference. We’ve come to understand that COVID may not necessarily go away so we expect that we will adapt such that in the presence of COVID, we can still do what we need to do,” the minister said.

“For a country that has over 115,000 primary schools, you will understand that 35,000 of these who are private must agree to set up the same standard in order to allow children to go in.

“If you go to our Nigerian Universities, many of the things we need for social distancing may not be available so you may need to rethink it.

“For instance, which courses should be in school at which periods, we can have semesters within semesters for different department and faculties.

“It is the same we are planning for secondary school reopening. We want to bring in our JSS and SSS children first, they conclude their exams and vacate the place, then others can return.

“We will do the same thing with primary schools, where we will now limit the number of children per class.

“What this may mean is that we may have classes in the mornings and classes in the afternoons so whichever is convenient for you. I am not sure if there will be classes at night, but we can do with mornings and afternoons at the moment,”.

Speaking further, Nwajiuba explained that the government also intends for schools to utilize all their infrastructure.

“Some people will be in the field learning, some would be in classes. Some will be at different facilities all within the school,” he said.

Virus Syndrome Also Found In French Children, Minister Says

File photo/ AFP

 

France has more than a dozen cases of children with inflammation around the heart, the health minister said Wednesday, after Britain sounded an alarm about a new disease with possible links to novel coronavirus.

Olivier Veran said there was not enough evidence to confirm a link with the coronavirus sweeping the globe but France was taking the cases “very seriously”.

Britain’s state-run National Health Service issued the alert at the weekend about a small number of children presenting an unusual set of symptoms, including abdominal pain and inflammation that required admission to intensive care.

In London, health minister Matt Hancock on Tuesday spoke of “early signs that in rare cases, there is an impact of an auto-immune response in children that causes a significant disease.

“It’s a new disease that we think may be caused by coronavirus and the COVID-19 virus.”

But he said that while some of the children who have it tested positive for the virus, others did not.

Cases have also been reported in Italy, Spain and Switzerland, Veran told Franceinfo news radio, adding he had received an alert from Paris concerning “about 15 children of all ages”.

The French minister listed the symptoms as fever, digestive problems and vascular inflammation which can lead to cardiac deficiency.

“To my knowledge, fortunately no child has died from these complications which are fairly rare illnesses that can come with inflammation of the heart,” Veran said.

Some of the cases “in France as in England, but not all, have turned out to carry the coronavirus”, causing “some concern and watchfulness”.

“I am taking this very seriously. We have absolutely no medical explanation at this stage.

“Is it an inflammatory reaction which sets off a pre-existing condition in children who have this virus or is it another infectious disease? There are a lot of questions.

The minister urged international and French experts to gather as much data as possible to establish if a link can be made between the coronavirus and the new symptoms, “which until now had not been seen anywhere”.

France intends to re-open primary schools from May 11 and the minister noted that children had largely escaped COVID-19 infection and that serious cases involved those with underlying conditions.

AFP

UK Raises Alarm Over Virus-Related Syndrome In Children

A hospital employee wearing protection mask and gear shows a swab, a cotton wab for taking mouth specimen, used at a temporary emergency structure set up outside the accident and emergency department, where any new arrivals presenting suspect new coronavirus symptoms will be tested, at the Brescia hospital, Lombardy, on March 13, 2020. Miguel MEDINA / AFP

 

Britain’s health minister said Tuesday he was “very worried” at signs of a coronavirus-related syndrome emerging in children but stressed it needed more research and remained very rare.

The state-run National Health Service (NHS) issued an alert at the weekend about a small number of children presenting an unusual set of symptoms, including abdominal pain and inflammation around the heart.

They have required admission to intensive care, according to a report in the Health Service Journal.

“I’m very worried about the early signs that in rare cases, there is an impact of an auto-immune response in children that causes a significant disease,” Health Secretary Matt Hancock told LBC radio.

He added: “It’s a new disease that we think may be caused by coronavirus and the COVID-19 virus.”

But Hancock said that while some of the children who have this new disease tested positive for the virus, others had not.

“We’re doing a lot of research now. What I would also stress is that it is rare. Although it is very significant for those children who do get it, the number of cases is small,” he said.

The Guardian newspaper reported that there had been at least 12 cases.

According to the Paediatric Intensive Care Society, the NHS alert warned of common overlapping features of toxic shock syndrome (TSS) and atypical Kawasaki disease and blood parameters consistent with severe COVID-19.

READ ALSO: South Asia Faces Fresh Health Crisis As Children Miss Vaccinations

TSS is a serious illness associated with infections while Kawasaki causes blood vessels to become inflamed and is mostly found in children under the age of five.

The national medical director for NHS England, Stephen Powis, said on Monday it was “too early to say” whether the new disease was linked to coronavirus but the issue was being looked into urgently.

England’s chief medical officer, Chris Whitty, said it was “entirely plausible” that it was linked to COVID-19.

Children have died from coronavirus but serious complications are rare.

“Evidence from throughout the world shows us that children appear to be the part of the population least affected by this infection,” said Russell Viner, president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health.

But he added: “New diseases may present in ways that surprise us, and clinicians need to be made aware of any emerging evidence of particular symptoms or of underlying conditions which could make a patient more vulnerable to the virus.”

AFP

South Asia Faces Fresh Health Crisis As Children Miss Vaccinations

A Chinese woman from Beijing, who is the first vaccine recipient to be inoculated with the monovalent Gardasil 9 human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine against cervical cancer, receives the vaccination at Boao Super Hospital (BSH) in Boao, Qionghai city, south China's Hainan province, 30 May 2018. Stringer / Imaginechina

Stringer / Imaginechina / AFP.

 

South Asia could face a further public health crisis as children miss routine vaccinations, the UN warned Tuesday, spurring fears that the fallout from the novel coronavirus pandemic might reverse hard-earned gains in the region.

The United Nations children’s agency UNICEF said hundreds of thousands were at risk as lockdowns across South Asia halted immunisation drives and parents refrained from taking their children to doctors to be inoculated.

“While the COVID-19 virus does not appear to make many children seriously ill, the health of hundreds of thousands of children could be impacted by this disruption of regular immunisation services,” said Jean Gough, director of UNICEF’s South Asia office.

“This is a very serious threat. Early action is key.”

Bangladesh and Nepal have halted their measles and rubella campaigns while Pakistan and Afghanistan have suspended their polio drives since the COVID-19 pandemic.

READ ALSO: UN Warns COVID-19 Could Double Food Insecurity In 9 African Countries

UNICEF noted that “sporadic” outbreaks of preventable diseases that can be cured with vaccines, including measles and diphtheria, have emerged in Bangladesh, Pakistan and Nepal.

Vaccine stocks were also running low in some countries in the region thanks to lockdowns and travel bans which have disrupted supply chains.

“UNICEF strongly recommends that, where immunisation campaigns are suspended, governments begin rigorous planning now to intensify immunisation activities once the COVID -19 pandemic is under control,” the agency said in a statement.

It added that as long as health workers take hygiene precautions, there was no reason for vaccinations not to continue.

The agency estimated that 4.5 million of South Asia’s children had already missed out on routine immunisations, even before the coronavirus pandemic struck.

Afghanistan and neighbouring Pakistan were struggling to vaccinate kids as local populations viewed inoculation teams with suspicion.

Opposition grew after the CIA organised a fake vaccination drive to help track down Al-Qaeda’s former leader Osama Bin Laden in the Pakistani city of Abbottabad.

AFP

COVID-19 Forcing Parents To Skip Kids’ Vaccinations – UNICEF

Libya Identified As Epicenter For Migrant Child Abuse

 

The novel coronavirus pandemic that has forced billions of people across the globe to stay home is making parents skip routine immunisations for their kids, the United Nations children’s agency UNICEF warned Thursday.

The phenomenon is being aggravated by overburdened health services where medical workers are being diverted from giving vaccines to focus on the COVID-19 response.

Some governments might even have to postpone mass immunisation campaigns as a way of slowing the disease’s spread, UNICEF said.

The agency’s executive director Henrietta Fore said the requirement for people to stay home and observe social distancing was leading parents to “make the difficult decision to defer routine immunisation”.

Of particular concern are impoverished and war-torn countries battling measles, cholera or polio outbreaks, such as Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia, the Philippines, Syria and South Sudan.

“At a time like this, these countries can ill-afford to face additional outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases,” Fore said in a statement.

“Medical goods are in short supply and supply chains are under historic strain due to transport disruptions. Flight cancellations and trade restrictions by countries have severely constrained access to essential medicines, including vaccines.”

Governments may in future need to postpone preventive mass vaccination campaigns — where people group together to receive inoculations — to ensure these do not contribute to the spread of COVID-19, Fore said.

UNICEF recommended governments begin rigorous planning now to boost immunisation campaigns once the coronavirus is under control.

Ann Lindstrand, who heads the World Health Organization’s expanded programme on immunisation, agreed with UNICEF’s warnings and said measles was a particular concern.

“This will be a particular challenge where vaccination coverage is already low,” she told AFP.

“There is a risk that more people will die due to the indirect impact of COVID-19, because vaccination will go down. There will surely be more measles deaths.”

– ‘Two global outbreaks –

Vaccine alliance GAVI, which is making funding available for lower-income countries to respond to the coronavirus crisis, also called for routine immunisations to continue.

“We cannot have two global outbreaks on our hands,” GAVI chair Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said in a statement.

Afghanistan is one of only three countries, along with Pakistan and Nigeria, where polio remains endemic.

Even before the coronavirus crisis, Afghanistan and neighbouring Pakistan were struggling to vaccinate kids as local populations viewed inoculation teams with suspicion.

Opposition grew after the CIA organised a fake vaccination drive to help track down Al-Qaeda’s former leader Osama Bin Laden in the Pakistani city of Abbottabad.

The Taliban last week pledged to cooperate with healthcare workers in combatting the coronavirus.

AFP

Every Child Under ‘Immediate Threat’ From Climate, Poor Diet – UN

A photo of the United Nations emblem
A photo of the United Nations emblem

 

The world is failing to protect children from the health dangers posed by climate change and poor diet, a landmark UN report said Wednesday, warning that every child is under “immediate threat”.

According to more than 40 of the world’s pre-eminent child and adolescent health experts, not one country on Earth is adequately protecting the next generation from the impacts of carbon emissions, the destruction of nature and high-calorie and processed foods.

They said that excessive carbon emissions, produced overwhelmingly by wealthier nations, “threaten the future of all children” and will burden them with additional health dangers, from deadly heatwaves to the increased spread of tropical diseases.

The report, commissioned by the World Health Organization and UNICEF, also highlights the threat children face from harmful marketing of fat- and sugar-laden foods, alcohol and tobacco.

“The big message is that no single country is protecting children’s health today and for their future,” said Anthony Costello, professor of International Child Health and Director of the Institute for Global Health at University College London.

“When you look at the damage being done to children’s lungs by air pollution, we’ve got a very limited time to sort this out,” he told AFP.

“We have the solutions, what we don’t have is the political leadership and will to make it happen.”

The report, published in The Lancet medical journal, ranks the performance of 180 countries when it comes to child survival, education and nutrition rates.

Under these criteria, less-developed nations such as Central African Republic and Chad perform particularly poorly compared to rich countries such as Norway and the Netherlands.

However the rankings are largely reversed when the impacts of air pollution from per capita carbon emissions were assessed.

“The world’s decision makers are failing today’s children and youth: failing to protect their health, failing to protect their rights, and failing to protect their planet,” said WHO director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

11-fold obesity surge

Around 250 million under-fives in low- and middle-income countries risk being stunted due to malnutrition and other impacts of poverty, the authors said.

At the same time, the number of obese children worldwide has surged 11-fold since 1975 to stand at 124 million.

Children in some countries see as many as 30,000 adverts on television in a single year. And despite industry self-regulation, one study showed that children in Australia were exposed 51 million times to alcohol adverts in just one year of televised sport.

“Industry regulation has failed,” said Costello.

“And the reality could be much worse still: we have few figures about the huge expansion of social media advertising and algorithms aimed at our children.”

The authors called on governments to radically reduce carbon emissions in line with the Paris climate goals and to tighten regulation of harmful marketing.

Current emissions pledges put Earth on course to warm more than 3C by 2100, which “would lead to devastating health consequences for children”, from rising sea levels and heatwaves to disease and malnutrition.

Two Children Killed In German School Bus Crash

Germany Map

 

Two children, both eight years old, were killed and five more seriously injured when a school bus slipped off an icy road into a ditch in central Germany on Thursday, officials said.

Local police said the bus had been carrying 22 children to their primary school when the accident happened near the town of Berka in the state of Thuringia.

It is believed the bus slipped on the ice because of a dip in the road, before toppling over an embankment and into a ditch.

Officials said the other 15 children on the bus were treated for light injuries and received psychological assistance.

Contrary to initial reports, the driver was not injured but did suffer from shock.

In a statement on Twitter, Thuringian state president Bodo Ramelow said he was “dismayed” by the news.

Thuringia’s interior minister Georg Maier said that there would be a “detailed investigation” of the incident, but added that “today was not the day for speculation”.

AFP

US Man Shoots Kids Throwing Snowballs At Cars

 

 

Police in the northern US state of Wisconsin said Tuesday they are looking for a man who shot two children who threw snowballs at his car over the weekend.

The children — a 12-year-old girl and a 13-year old boy — suffered non-life threatening gunshot wounds, the Milwaukee Police said in a statement.

They were part of a group of kids throwing snowballs at passing cars Saturday evening in Milwaukee, a city of about half a million people 90 miles (145 kilometers) north of Chicago.

“One of the snowballs struck a white Toyota, no further description, and the driver of the auto fired shots into the group of kids striking the two victims,” the statement said.

The department asked for help identifying the shooter.

Eight Children Among 15 Civilians Killed By Mine In Afghanistan – Govt

 

Fifteen civilians, including eight children, were killed Wednesday when their vehicle hit a land mine in Kunduz province in northern Afghanistan, a government official said.

“At around 5:00 pm this evening a mine planted by the Taliban terrorists hit a civilian car… killing 15 civilians and wounding two more,” said Nasrat Rahimi, an interior ministry spokesman.

Six women and a man were also among those killed in the blast in Kunduz, on the country’s northern border with Tajikistan, Rahimi said.

No group has claimed responsibility for the blast. It was also unclear if it was a targeted attack.

However, there are regular clashes in the region between the Taliban insurgents and US-backed Afghan forces.

Insurgents attacked the provincial capital, also called Kunduz, in early September, but failed to capture it. The Taliban briefly seized the city in 2015.

The blast comes during what has been a period of relative and uneasy calm, where the rate of large-scale attacks has dropped in recent weeks.

The comparative lull followed a blood-stained presidential campaign season that ended with a general election on September 28.

No Vote Results Yet

But Wednesday’s blast comes less than a week after a foreign national was killed and at least five other people wounded in a grenade attack on a United Nations vehicle in Kabul on November 24.

The attack happened on a road frequently used by UN traffic shuttling workers between central Kabul and a large UN compound on the outskirts of the capital.

The UN said two other staff members — one Afghan and one international — were wounded.

Aid agencies and non-governmental groups are sometimes targeted in Afghanistan’s war.

In 2011, seven foreign UN workers — including four Nepalis, a Swede, a Norwegian and a Romanian — were killed in an attack on a UN compound in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif.

Afghans are still waiting for the results of that September 28 presidential election, with a recount bogged down by technical difficulties and bickering between the incumbent, President Ashraf Ghani, and his chief rival, Abdullah Abdullah.

Afghans are also waiting to see what might happen in negotiations between Washington and the Taliban.

US President Donald Trump in September ended those yearlong talks as Taliban violence continued, but on November 22 he suggested to US broadcaster Fox News that negotiations could be getting underway again.

Lagos Kids Mini Marathon Kicks Off

 

The Lagos Kids Mini Marathon has kicked off in the Ikoyi area of the state.

This year’s event, which is the third in its series, is ongoing with scores of children participating.

Accompanied by their parents, the kids arrived at the event as early as 6:30 am to race for the top prizes in various categories of the marathon.

The athletes took part in an early morning drill after which they were grouped into various categories just before the race commenced.

The race, which covers 3km to 5km, comprises three age segments – seven to eight years, nine to 12 years, and 13 to 15 years and above.

It also features a new category called Walkaton – covering 1.2km for kids between ages four and six.

According to the organisers, all athletes will be given medals but the winners in each segment would be awarded active gold, silver, and bronze medals according to their positions.

The Lagos Kids Mini Marathon is hosted by St Saviour’s School, Ikoyi Endowment Fund with an objective to promote active kids and encourage them to run for a charitable cause.

The Kids Mini Marathon is a fun family annual event organised to inspire kids to be more active and health-conscious.

The maiden edition of the race held in November 2017 and is the first inter-school 5km run in the country.

In 2018, it was bigger and had more participation from young athletes and schools among others.

This year’s edition also features hundreds of participants drawn from over 150 schools, as well as over 250 volunteer adults.

A breakdown of the figure of the participants reveals that about 50 per cent are between four to eight years, 35 per cent are in the range of nine to 12 years, while the remaining fall between 13 and 16 years.