Story Telling As a Tool to Change Negative Behaviours and Normal Practices That Drive Corruption

I believe that story telling has a strong potential to change attitudes and behaviours of children against corruption as well as encourage them to act with integrity.

– Onyinye Ough,
Executive Director, Step Up Nigeria

I believe that story telling has a strong potential to change attitudes and behaviours of children against corruption as well as encourage them to act with integrity. Through Step Up Nigeria’s ‘Catch Them Young initiative’, I am finding out that story telling could be a useful tool to educate children on the consequences of corruption. It is also helpful in influencing them to begin to act against corruption. 

Our ‘Catch Them Young Initiative’ uses anti-corruption story books written by me to teach children in primary and junior secondary schools. Thanks to MacArthur foundation, we are working towards using story telling approaches to target 20,000 children in Nigeria. Just before the lockdown, we had reached over 7000 children through story telling. I am glad that we have started seeing encouraging results. We have started receiving feedback from schools about children beginning to act with integrity and trying to be like the anti-corruption heroes in the stories. That is the beauty of storytelling because it is helping to create some fictional trendsetters around fighting corruption that children can look up to. We now have children who want to be young anti-corruption champions. 

For example, in some of the schools that we have engaged, prior to the children reading the anti- corruption story books, students would use sweets or presents to get other students to vote for them. After reading some of our story books like Emeka Money and Halima’s Vote, students now focus on getting the children to vote for them by committing to change things in the school rather than through buying them with sweets or biscuits. For me, this is encouraging and would need to be sustained so that we can get the next generation of leaders and politicians that will act with integrity during elections. 

Another example is from an 8-year-old student that read Emeka’s Money. For those that schooled in Nigeria, if you recall in primary school sometimes class prefects have the job to write the names of noise makers in class. Prior to reading Emeka’s money, this little girl would not include the names of her friends in the list of noise makers even though they were the noise makers. After reading Emeka’s Money, she realised that including the names of her friends meant that she was not honest and was engaging in nepotism. She felt bad about this and has started including the names of her friends when writing the name of noisemakers in her class. This may sound little, but it is these little changes in behaviour that encourages the Step-Up Nigeria team to keep going and using this approach. 

Our stories are giving children more confidence to speak up against bad practices in their environment. One of the students told us of how she challenged her teacher for charging above the regular price for home economic practical classes. Even though the teacher did not change the price, she was happy to have been able to challenge the teacher who was exploiting students. Another interesting example from a girl who caught her sister trying to take N1000 from her mom’s purse. Her sister begged here not to report to her mom and promised her some candy. She refused and said it was an act of bribery. She reported to her mom. She was influenced by the stories. 

Based on our experience in Step Up Nigeria, I believe that story telling is an impactful way of teaching children about complex governance issues. It is also encouraging them to act with integrity. Hopefully in trying to build collective action in the fight against corruption through stories, we may begin to build a future society that is less tolerant of corruption and courageous enough to tackle cultural and social norms that encourage corruption.

– Written by Step Up Nigeria Executive Director, Onyinye Ough

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