Dominic Dominic Onyekachi simply known as Kachi is a firm believer in the power of using healthy narratives in storytelling to further social discuss and drive social change. He is a recipient of the US Department of State's Study of the US Institutes for Student leaders in social entrepreneurship (SUSI SL 2017) as well as Robert Bosch foundation alumni and also a recipient of the Ashoka West African Change Makers exchange award for social innovators in West Africa.
Kachi is the outgoing president of the Covenant University literary and debate society as well as the reigning national debate champion at the All Nigeria Universities Debate Championships.
He is currently the co-founder and CEO at Akiddie, where he uses the power of creative storytelling and technology to pass socially conscious narratives to children in both English and three indigenous languages, in text and in audio.
Kachi believes that there is gender bias in some of these old foreign stories like Cinderella or Rapunzel, the female character is unable to solve her problem on her own without the appearance of a ‘Prince Charming’ and ‘happily ever after’ in those stories is defined as marriage to the said prince. He believes that such stories are no longer good for children in 2019. He is of the opinion that female children deserved strong female characters that took the initiative, solved a problem and caused a positive change in society’s narrative.
He believes that to sustain our culture, language plays an important role thus his narrating his stories in three major languages of Nigeria.
Legit.ng spoke exclusively with Kachi on his achievement as a young man.
Can you introduce yourself better and what you do?
My name is Dominic Dominic Onyekachi, but I’m usually just called Kachi. I’m the co-founder of Akiddie, a social enterprise dedicated to telling children stories that matter, our work relies heavily on socially conscious themes like the sdgs, tolerance, inclusion, gender equality and environmental activism as themes. I’m currently a final year student at Covenant University.
What course did you study and its relationship to storytelling?
I’m currently reading information and communications engineering at Covenant University. To be honest, what I’m reading and the story telling aspect of Akiddie are not related at all. However, Akiddie relies on tech to effectively function well; we have an android app and a website where children and schools can access our content. It has functionalities like switching between text and audio and switching between languages in text and audio formats so I can say my training as a communications engineer certainly helped in that aspect.
You are a social change champion, how did you arrive at this?
I don’t think I’ve ever made a conscious decision to be a social change agent. Most times, I don’t even ascribe to myself that distinctive definition, because I believe that everyone who participates in community has the obligation to give back to the community in some way. To ensure that life is inclusive, equitable and just for everyone, to ensure that the space we all share, the earth is maintained in a sustainable manner. That is all I’ve tried to do, to give back to the community that has given me the platform to grow and the capacity to dream. Unfortunately, a lot of people are not awake to this responsibility, so it makes the work of those that are, more noticeable. Social change shouldn’t be a distinctive act worthy of commendation; it should be the way of life of everyone privileged to be a member of any community.
Your project, Akiddie, tells African stories using African languages, what prompted that?
My sister once asked me to read a story to my niece. I went to her mini library to look for a story book to read to her and I discovered that all of the books she had were foreign stories. The characters looked nothing like her, they were all white. The events in the story aren’t things she was familiar with, it was like the entire narrative introduced her to a world that she couldn’t be part of. I also realized that there was very little children’s literature that was available in local languages. While I believe that English is an excellent language to tell a story in, children should also be introduced to their local languages, and one of the most effective ways to do this is to have literature in those languages available and easily accessible with the click of a button. That was when I made the decision to start building Akiddie.
Then you focus on kids, are you trying to change something in (re-)orientating the African children?
Apart from the fact that most of those stories were foreign, I realized that most of the stories were also old, some as old as 200 years, and the narrative that they pushed could be sometimes unhealthy. Take the issue of gender equality for instance. In some of these old foreign stories like Cinderella or Rapunzel, the female character is unable to solve her problem on her own without the appearance of a “prince charming” and “happily ever after” in those stories is defined as marriage to the said prince. While there’s nothing wrong with one story that provides a female character fulfillment from marriage, repeated use of that narrative tells young girls that they can’t be happy without a “prince charming” solving their problems for them or that their “princessness” has to be validated by a prince. I felt that narratives like this shouldn’t be what girls should be learning in 2019. That they deserved strong female characters, who took the initiative, solved a problem and caused a positive change in society’s narrative. Some of the Akiddie stories like the Flying Girl of Rano portray this idea well. Some of my stories, like Bubu's Light also shine the light on the importance of environmental conservation, recycling and entrepreneurship. This, I feel, is the orientation young children should grow up with.
How old are you and what in your upbringing brought you to do this?
I’m 22 years old. I was born in Yola, Adamawa state and I lived there until 2014 when I had to move to Lagos. I’m fluent in both Igbo and Hausa. I believe my ability to speak and read two Nigerian languages inspired the feature in Akiddie that allows for children to attain same proficiency.
You have won some awards; can you enlighten us on what qualifies your winning them?
I’ve been a recipient of the US department of state’s Study of the US Institutes for Student leaders in social entrepreneurship (SUSI SL 2017) as well as Ashoka’s West African Change Maker’s exchange do social innovators in West Africa among others. Most of the awards I have earned have been in recognition of exemplary student leadership, debate and contribution to moving social causes with Akiddie.
You are a debater, how did you come this way and how far has debating taken you?
Debate is the single most important decision I took in school. I joined debate in my third year in school and since then, it has radically changed my outlook with regards to a lot of things. But the most important thing debate did for me was allowing me meet a lot of like-minded and intelligent people across Nigeria and West Africa. In two years debating, I grew from a novice to the national champion in 2018. I credit my ability to critically think and analyse, speak publicly and consider things logically and with an open mind. Without debate, I would not have seen the problem Akiddie aims to solve.
Can you give us an insight into your growing up, educational background and work experience?
I was born in Yola, I had my primary and secondary education there and I still have family there. I’m in my final year reading information and communications engineering at Covenant University.
I want to go beyond making just books to actually making full 3D movies telling African stories that matter to children. I believe that Africa has a story to tell to the world and that we are going to make that happen.
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