When I first started discussing the idea for an African children’s magazine with friends and colleagues, the reason for creating it: the why was quite clear, but that was the only definite factor. Many of the more practical elements were hazy and this mostly because there are so few other such publications in Africa to learn from or emulate. Was there a market? How could we get to it? Would anyone want to read what African children had to write about their lives? How do we put a magazine together?

We knew that ‘agency’ would be a major watchword for the growing idea and we wanted to emphasise throughout our vision of a magazine for kids by kids. At the outset we wanted to create a project that nurtures the contributions and perspectives of African children, giving voice to how they view themselves in their own contexts. For a long time, we have had others telling the African child’s story, now we wanted to put the microphone right into the child’s hand, giving them a chance to tell their own story.  

I chose to become a teacher after ten years of working in the creative industries. Coming into teaching, I had huge amounts of creative energy and was so eager to roll that out somewhere. I moved to Nigeria five years ago and started a transatlantic learning centre, which runs creative learning sessions in Lagos throughout the year and in London and New York during the school holidays. During the pandemic year of 2020-21, having mostly been stuck in one locale (Lagos), I finally had the chance to focus on a continuous initiative for an entire year. This was my chance to develop the magazine after countless years of allowing it to brew internally.

What are the benefits of creating such a publication as a teacher? In my role supporting students at my Centre, I saw a terrific opportunity to offer some of them a chance to refine their viewpoints and share them with the wider world, while developing literacy skills along the way. That’s essentially what we did for nine months.

The process included selecting students who would be interested and able to see the entire project through from start to finish, parents who would support the vision, working with an experienced consultant to help oversee and guide us, a designer and photographer who could mirror what I had in mind, a good quality and affordable printer and an editor. We had a terrific team who believed wholeheartedly in the vision. Work began in October 2020 and magazines were on our doorstep by the middle of June the following year ready for dispatch.

It was a delightful experience in countless ways. Firstly, it was a dream come true for me and although I am the editor of the magazine, its potential impact is lightyears beyond me. With our vision to showcase the best of African life and culture from the perspective of a child to the rest of the world, there’s no knowing what will be written, drawn, or created and there’s no saying what mindsets will be shifted. With the first edition, our mission to get those lives read by children who live beyond African borders in schools, museums, learning centres, homes around the world was launched. From feedback we’ve received so far, there is growing interest between our creators and communities of other students, and we hope to be able to nurture more of that.

One key moment for me personally in the process was working with the designer to see the draft layouts and drawings come to life. Another peak moment was working closely with the consultant who helped broaden my understanding of industry expectations when preparing materials for print.

There were challenges along the way as one might expect. As it was a new venture, I spent untold hours re-casting and re-explaining the vision, the timeline was interrupted and disrupted more times than planned, we went over budget, some children who were not used to the rigours and intensity of the work were tempted to give up. In the end I learnt the true art of substitution and just putting one foot in front of the other. Members of the team were an incredible support to me personally throughout its duration.

We had amazing success selling out in Nigeria in under 10 days and then delivering copies to schools in the UK and US shortly after. At the student level, we’ve seen the quality of work and engagement of students shift dramatically. There is a keen interest in writing and growing confidence in contributing one’s voice to a global community of young people. We’ve also received wonderful and encouraging messages from readers from different communities, spurring us on and suggesting new ideas they’d like to see in subsequent editions. So, what’s so amazing about this African children’s magazine? Well, put simply that we get a chance to share our stories with the world… from Africa to the World.  Keep an eye out for the next edition published in Summer 2022.

You can find out more about Eyes on Africa here

If you found this blog interesting, why not have a read of our previous post 5 reasons to use magazines in lessons