• July 10th, 2020

Opinion - Amazing short stories for children by Namibian women writers

As I read  the short stories submitted for the Namibia-Wales short fiction for children competition that was launched at the University of Namibia at the beginning of this year – before the Covid 19 pandemic caused alarm and despondency in this part of the world – I  realized that there is amazing talent in this literary genre in Namibia. Amazing talent that is there for the Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture to exploit through its Arts and Culture division. Amazing talent that private publishers can also utilize in publishing thrilling books for children which will appeal not only to young readers, but also to older readers both locally and elsewhere in the world. Also, the fact that all the authors of the short-listed entries are female speaks volumes about the significant contributions women make in our society. Therefore, there is all the reason to say ‘bravo’ to our women who have made the nation proud by telling the Namibian story through their literary masterpieces.
The competition, run under the auspices of the Phoenix project of the Cardiff University in Wales, United Kingdom, attracted 24 short stories from Namibia and only 3 from Wales. The short stories were for children between the ages of 7 and 15. The short-listed children stories were of a very high standard, with the caveat that some of the Namibian entries would need some light editing to correct minor errors in spelling and grammar. The Namibian stories represented an opportunity for their readers to learn about aspects of Namibian culture and relationships. This Phoenix Namibia-Wales short fiction competition was only the start, and it is envisaged that future competitions will attract more and better entries with wider publicity. 

The winning entries showed high imagination with a lot of suspense that keeps the reader on the edge. These stories, developed naturally and effortlessly, enthralled the reader. These are stories that keep the readers absorbed without knowing, only for the readers to realise that they were reading a story when they finished reading the story. Aided by rounded and realistic characters that engage in live and captivating dialogues, these stories have all the ingredients of first-class narratives covering a variety of themes in Namibia.  

Another feature that distinguished the winning entries from stolid ones is that they are action-packed, making it difficult for readers to put them down before reaching the end. Characteristically, young readers easily identify with stories that have action in them, interesting stories, not the dull, mundane types. They also want to visualize all episodes in action in stories they read, if you are to keep them glued to their books. This is mainly because reading books compete with other exciting activities in the lives of young readers. There must be exceptionally good stories for them to read in order to keep them away from their play stations and cartoons. Hence the importance of making use of aesthetic appeal in children’s stories. 

The stories are publishable as stand-alone story books or as an anthology of short stories for children. In whatever form, the books will be eligible to be selected as set-books for children’s literature courses at tertiary level. They can also be used by primary and lower secondary classes.

Addressing a panel of judges of the writing competition recently, leader of the Phoenix project, Professor Judith Hall from Cardiff University, said that the competition was a resounding success.

 “I am delighted with the competition’s success. There were many very beautiful stories and judging was extremely difficult. In fact, the standard was so high, that we offered four prizes instead of three!  Competitions like this are something the Phoenix Project can support for shared cross-cultural learning, even when our countries are in lockdown,” said Professor Hall.
All in all, it is befitting to conclude this piece by quoting renowned writer Devon Corneal’s words on children’s books. She remarked that “Children’s books are a fascinating blend of simplicity and life lessons. They’re like security blankets — all warm and fuzzy on the outside, but deeply symbolic on the inside. They can be funny, touching, deep, dark, poignant, or charming, but in the end, they’re just the books we love. That’s why they so often stay with us well into adulthood.”
Winning entries
“Hope and the Fairy Ring” by Nabeelah Suleman from Namibia;
“The Power in the Making” by Karen Pierce from Wales;
“When a Whale needs a Hand (or two)” by Mel Kelly from Namibia;
“Little Kauka saves the Elephants” by Mundia Mercy Mubuyaeta from Namibia.
Each writer will receive a prize of 200 British Pounds (N$4 330.00)
 Send comments to: kjairos@gmail.com

Staff Reporter
2020-06-26 09:43:16 | 13 days ago

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