Gbagba: Anti-Corruption Song Takes Children’s Reader to Another Level

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Hip-Co King Takun J is headlining a new track hitting the airwaves this week that is pushing the envelope and tapping the consciousness of Liberian youth with the anti-corruption message. The song “Gbagba Is Corruption” is based on the children’s book Gbagba written by Robtel Neajai Pailey, illustrated by Chase Walker, and published by One Moore Book (OMB). 

The track forms part of a grant Pailey secured from the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA) to pilot Gbagba in schools across Liberia with an initial donation of 1,500 books. Takun J was commissioned under the grant to write and record the song.  Grant implementer One Moore Book (OMB), which publishes culturally sensitive children’s books for countries with low literacy rates, plans to disseminate copies of Gbagba to 10 rural schools this year, as well as monitor the implementation of a teacher’s guide developed in consultation with Liberia’s Ministry of Education.

“Gbagba Is Corruption” joins the canon of anti-corruption songs popularised by politically conscious musicians such as Takun J, who blends Liberian colloquialisms with Hip-hop beats. He was an obvious ally in bringing the children’s book Gbagba to a wider audience. Now played on radio stations in Liberia, with a strong online presence across the globe, “Gbagba Is Corruption” is also available for free download at the OMB website, www.onemoorebook.com.

OSIWA, which focuses on governance and transparency issues in West Africa, has funded the Gbagba pilot because it “believes the fight against corruption needs to start with teaching children the values of accountability and integrity, which opens the space for an honest discussion of how corruption adversely affects them in their homes, schools, local communities, and within the national landscape on a broader scale.”

Gbagba, meaning ‘trickery’ in the Bassa language, was published to critical acclaim in 2013 as part of OMB’s Liberia Signature Series. It was subsequently launched in Monrovia, Liberia in February 2013 at the University of Liberia; Washington, DC (USA) in November 2013 at the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS); and London, England in December 2013 at the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS).

A Liberian writer and researcher, Pailey said: “I wrote Gbagba because I wanted to start a ‘revolution from below’ by giving children the verbal tools to question the confusing ethical codes of the adults around them.” Since its publication, the anti-corruption children’s primer has been adopted by the Liberian Ministry of Education as a supplemental reader for 3rd to 5th graders.

Gbagba has been featured in the New York Times/International Herald Tribune, The Washington Informer Newspaper, Voice of America, Pacifica Radio’s ‘Africa Now!’, Vox Africa’s ‘Shoot the Messenger’, Transparency International’s UK blog, and the Royal African Society’s blog.

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