Cartoon monster helps explain coronavirus to Nigerian children


LAGOS (Reuters) – It is hard enough for adults to get their heads around the coronavirus, but for children it can be even more difficult to understand why they can’t see their friends or play outside.

That is where Niyi Akinmolayan’s cartoon monster comes in.

The Nigerian filmmaker has created a 90-second animation to help youngsters understand why they have to stay at home after schools in Lagos were shut from March 23 and public gatherings were banned to stem the spread of the disease.

It tells the story of two siblings, Habeeb and Funke. Habeeb gets tired of staying at home and decides to sneak out to play soccer. His older sister Funke warns him not go out, but he insists, only to be confronted by a monster.

Akinmolayan, best known for directing “The Wedding Party 2”, Nigeria’s highest grossing movie, said he was inspired after several attempts to explain the lockdown to his 5-year-old son.

    “But he still didn’t get it until I kind of changed the narrative and said the coronavirus actually looks like a big monster and it is out there in the street and if you go it will catch you,” he told Reuters.

The message seems to have sunk in with some children who have seen the video.

“My favourite part was when the boy opened the door and saw the coronavirus, the monster, outside, and he slammed the door and had to go inside, and now I know that this is not the right time to go anywhere or outside,” said Ezichi Nwaogu, 9, watching with her sister at their Lagos home.

Akinmolayan made the animation through his production company, Anthill Studios, using a 10-strong crew all working separately from their homes.

It is being distributed for free and can be downloaded in English, Igbo, Yoruba, Hausa, French and Swahili. It is showing on some terrestrial television stations.

As of Sunday, Nigeria had recorded 627 cases of the virus and 21 people have died, including the president’s chief of staff.

Reporting by Angela Ukomadu; Writing by Alison Williams; Editing by Janet Lawrence