You probably would have been surprised that Thursday morning to find secondary school students in a university environment. Curious, you trail them to find out what they are up to. Finally, you end up at the Main Auditorium of the prestigious University of Lagos, Akoka. To add to your already stunned psyche, you see students chatting excitedly about what they are expecting. You decide to find out what is happening but before you could go further, a banner proclaims the theme ‘Youth Living With HIV: Securing Our Future And Dealing With Stigma’. It’s the TEENAGE FESTIVAL OF LIFE 2007.
Since its inception in 1993, the annual Teenage Festival of Life has carved a niche for itself as an opportunity for young people to display their talent, creativity and disseminate information on issues that concern them. For over a dozen years, Action Health Incorporated has been dedicated to improving the health and wellbeing of adolescence in Nigeria by increasing awareness, implementing public education and innovative healthcare programs.
TFL, as the festival is fondly called, is an annual celebration initiated by Action Health Incorporated as one of the ways of passing factual information to young people. TFL is an event that has helped foster relationships between adults and young people as most adults have attested to having realized the budding talents young people possess. Every year, over two thousand young people participate in the festival as they see a rare opportunity to discover and explore their innate potentials under a very conducive setting.
On November 8 2007, over 2,000 students from more than 70 schools within Lagos came to discuss (through creative platforms) how to help stop the stigmatization of young people living with HIV. Adults who took time out to hear the voices of the future leaders include: Community Development Association (CDA) members, Government Officials from Federal and State Ministry of Education, Federal and State Ministry of Health, Representatives of Non-governmental Organizations, school principals, PTA Health Counselors, peer educators, teachers and the media.
As the saying goes “he who fails to plan, plans to fail”, a thirteen-man committee comprising of ten young people and three adult staff of Action Health Inc. was set up. The committee starts work in march 2007 and had the herculean task of coming up with a viable theme for the festival, drawing up a list of proposed activities to be carried out before the event, recommend categories of competition and modalities of entries as well as suggest ways to make this year’s festival better than the preceding ones.
A two-day workshop was held from 3 – 4 of June 2007 for schools interested in the competition. Mr. Lookman Sanusi of Bubbles Communication and Ms. Temitayo Oyedemi of Positive Action for Treatment Access (PATA) were the consultants for the workshop. Mr. Sanusi worked on enlightening the participating schools on script writing and stage presentation while Ms. Odeyemi focused on the theme for the event; she talked extensively on HIV and AIDS. This was done to enable schools have adequate and factual knowledge on the message they were supposed to pass across.
About 70 schools participated in the workshop after which over 100 entries were received for various categories. The short-listing and harmonization of entries came next. The judges were Theatre Arts practitioners and professionals from the media. At the end of the harmonization, 28 entries were selected for the pre-judging exercise. The 28 entries selected compromised; 10 poetry entries, 8 drama entries and 10 song entries.
The pre-judging exercise was conducted on 3 – 4 October 2007 to select the best tree entries in each category. Criteria used in the selection included melody, harmony, performance , extra creativity, theme realization and voice projection.
The dress rehearsal took place on the day before the main event. This was basically for the participant to be familiar with the costumes and the stage. The seven comperes; Randolph Osemeahon, Peculiar Ediomo-Abasi, Efemona Ivri, Oladipupo Ajayi, Teslim Jabar, Mervis Emelife and Christopher Adeboye had their had their lines and roles perfected. Even the ushers and registrars were oriented on what was expected of them on that day.
Chief Dayo Adeneye (popularly known as D1) of Primetime Entertainment anchored the programme while the groomed comperes were on the hand to add flavor and color and event. The Executive Director, Action Health Incorporated, Mrs. Adenike Esiet gave her welcome address and spoke elaborately on the need to discover talents and develop skills that would help in addressing issues of concern not just to young people but the society at large. She also commended the inputs of collaborating organizations such as Positive Action for Treatment Access (PATA) and Association of Positive Youth in Nigeria (APYIN) in the 2007 and also recognized and acknowledged the members of the TFL 2007 Planning Committee.
The Chairperson’s address was delivered by Ms. Nancy Snauwaert. She represented Dr. Warren Namara who was unavoidably absent at the event. The Special Guest of Honor, Mrs. K.F Ajoni, Executive Secretary of National Human Rights Commission also gave a short speech. Others who gave remarks at the event were Mrs. Z.U Momodu, National Coordinator HIV/AIDS Programme, Federal Ministry of Education, Mrs. Adejuwon, HIV/AIDS Desk Officer, Lagos State Ministry of Education, Mrs. Folashade Lediju, Representative of the CEO of LSACA, Dr. Mrs. Dabiri. The applause all performing schools received was overwhelming that it became obvious that young people are really talented and would give all it takes to contribute to the society.
Lagos City Senior College acted out “HIV positive? No long thing!” while Wesley Girls Senior Secondary School Sabo educated us with “My Story” and Comprehensive Senior High School, Alapere passed on “The Message”. In Lagos State Model College, Meiran pleaded saying “Let’s come together”. Kings College, Lagos decided to throw more light on “HIV among youths” while Comprehensive High School, Alapere thought it was worth – while to “Ease the pain”. In the category where Daddy Larry Williams and Prof. Wole Soyinka are respected, Ijegun Comprehensive Junior High School told us “The Outcast’s”, Girls Junior High School also recited a poem with the befitting name “Sisi”, while Comprehensive Senior High School, Alapere refused to be left out as we heard a girl screaming “I choose to live!”
The motivational talk segment was anchored by a prominent figure in Primetime Entertainment, Mr. Kenny Ogungbe. Mr. Ogungbe (aka Keke) of Kennis Music came on stage to inspire, motivate and encourage young people. He told his grass to grace story of his path to stardom, while emphasizing that believing in one’s abilities and maintaining focus is what has seen him to the top of his career.
The fun and excitement reached its climax when Mr. Olu Maintain, “the Yahoozee Master” as he is fondly called bounced unto the stage to keep the audience (old and young alike) speelbound with some hit –tracks from his now very popular album. The audience was so captivated that even minutes after he left the stage, some were seen raising their hands and stamping their right legs in the very popular dance style- “Yahoozee”.
It was time to call out the winners and give plagues and trophies. In the drama category, Mr. Chibuike Igbokwe, Ms. Magdalene Odion and Morenike Adebayo were awarded best performers. With voices like that of “Celine Dion” and “Akon”, Mr. Kayode Ogedengbe of Kings’ College and Ms . Mfonobong Nicholas received accolades for possessing the most sonorous voices. In the poetry category, it was a females’ affair as the best poets in persons of Ms. Tina Ehiziator, Ms. Kehinde Imosu and Ms. Eyo Victor were rewarded!
In the poetry category, Comprehensive Senior High School,Alapere grabbed the first position while Ijegun Comprehensive Junior High School took home the second position with Girls Junior High School, Agege coming third.
With their sonorous voices, Comprehensive Senior High School, Alapere, Kings’ College Lagos and Lagos State Model College, Meiran clinched 1st, 2nd and 3rd positions in that order.
In the drama category, Lagos City Senior College, came tops while Wesley Girls Senior Secondary School, Sabo and Comprehensive Senior High School, Alapere came 2nd and 3rd respectively.
“All is Well that Ends Well”, so goes the popular saying. The Teenage Festival of Life 2007 ended on a wonderful note as everyone went home with a resolve to show love and care to people living HIV.