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Nigerian schools cut history classes — so these comic books are picking up the slack.

They say, 'Those who don't learn history are doomed to repeat it.'

Nigerian schools cut history classes — so these comic books are picking up the slack.

Most Americans know as much about George Washington as they do about Spider-Man.

We all know the deal — guy with false teeth learns all about great power and responsibility while crossing the Delaware, then gets bitten by a radioactive spider that turns him into the first president of the United States, and so on. Somehow, the enduring legacy of some floppy four-color comic book pages is as ingrained in our collective cultural mind as our country's foundational history.


All images from Panaramic Entertainment, used with permission.

But things are different in Nigeria, where recent changes to the national curriculum mean that history class is, well, history.

The country as a whole decided to shift its educational focus more toward technology and engineering — which certainly makes sense, given the current state of their world. As a result, “history” as a subject has been folded into the larger civics and government curriculum, with maybe a few details touched on here and there in religion or English class.

It's not that Nigerians can't study history; it still exists at the university level, and there are plenty of scholarly texts and award-winning novels written about the country's rich and complicated past, and all of the important lessons that go along with that. But unless it's something you actively seek out, you're left with the short summaries that are covered in civics class, or the oral histories passed down from the elders in your village or family.

And while that kind of storytelling is great for folklore like Anansi and Hercules, it's … not so good for the accurate, objective details that teach important lessons from the past.

Clearly there's only one solution to this problem: comic books!

That's why a group of Nigerian comic book creators founded Panaramic Entertainment in 2007, with a mission "to tackle the high illiteracy rate in Nigeria and enable Nigerians and the rest of the world engage in our rich history & culture, helping to promote and preserve it."

"I got into reading proper through comic books at about age 5," said editor-in-chief Tunji Anjorin. "I feel like the combination of images and words creates a story in still image format capable of entertaining and teaching readers/audience in a fun way. It's an affordable form of low-income entertainment that can bring value to both the readers and creators, and the next edition is always something to look forward to."

Their flagship comic book series, "Okiojo's Chronicles," recounts the history of a different Nigerian culture in each issue.

The publisher has so far released three quarterly issues chronicling the struggles of the Yoruban emperor Oduduwa, the fall of the Benin Empire at the hands of the British, and the legendary exploits of Amina, the warrior queen of Zazzau.

"A 10-year-old who grows up reading 'Okiojo's Chronicles' for 10 years would have read 40 different ethnic groups comics and he would have a better understanding of the people who are left and right to him and [of] Nigeria as a whole," Anjorin told U.S. News.

But even those 40 comic books would barely scratch the surface of the more than 250 ethnic groups recognized in Nigeria.

And yet, that daunting challenge is not enough to keep Panaramic from pursuing their ultimate goal of publishing a comic book for every single ethnic group, so that future generations can learn about and from the histories of each splendid culture. (Even if it does take 60 years or more.)

"If you just look at the past, if you look at when we started democracy, we seem to be making the same mistakes over and over again," said Oriteme Banigo, the series' creator. "In our stories we emphasize ... why this has happened, why we should remember it, and how we could stop ourselves from going through the same issues moving forward."

Comics aren't just a sneaky-clever way to get kids into history. For Nigerians, they also represent an opportunity to reclaim their country's narrative and share their own stories with the world.

Another new publisher called the Comic Republic recently launched the first-ever all-African superhero universe, full of colorful heroes of color to rival the massive world building of companies like Marvel and DC.

And a Nigerian creator named Roye Okupe also founded his own YouNeek Studios and launched a sci-fi comic called "E.X.O."

"I want [audiences] to see a different side of Nigeria, our booming tech industry, amazing city architecture, unique culture, African humor, Afrofuturism … a side that is not regularly shown in mainstream media," he told The Guardian.

From Tunji Anjorin's upcoming Panaramic superhero comic "Omo Boy."

Comic books are surprisingly effective tools for education, empowerment, and change. They engage readers with their stunning visuals, and challenge different parts of our minds to work in tandem to comprehend the combination of words and images.

It doesn't hurt that they're affordable and accessible to everyone. "A reader of any age can usually interpret the message," Anjorin told Upworthy over email. "Comics are also easier to share through digital format."

Currently, Panaramic's comics are available in print at schools, bookstores, newsstands, and even through a local restaurant chain in Lagos. But as the company tries to break through to the international market, they're also offering their books online for the low, low price of $1.

"Every comic book industry has their own signature, so we would be bringing in our own way of depicting ourselves and the rest of the world as well as our culture and ideologies," Anjorin said in an interview with Spaceboy Nigeria. "So I took it upon myself to create my own comic book universe and introduce the average Nigerian and the rest of world."

Preserving history. Changing a global narrative. All with nothing but paper and pencil.

It's one thing to see a little kid skateboarding. It's another to see a stereotype-defying little girl skateboarding. And it's entirely another to see Paige Tobin.

Paige is a 6-year-old skateboarding wonder from Australia. A recent video of her dropping into a 12-foot bowl on her has gone viral, both for the feat itself and for the style with which she does it. Decked out in a pink party dress, a leopard-print helmet, and rainbow socks, she looks nothing like you'd expect a skater dropping into a 12-foot bowl to look. And yet, here she is, blowing people's minds all over the place.

For those who may not fully appreciate the impressiveness of this feat, here's some perspective. My adrenaline junkie brother, who has been skateboarding since childhood and who races down rugged mountain faces on a bike for fun, shared this video and commented, "If I dropped in to a bowl twice as deep as my age it would be my first and last time doing so...this fearless kid has a bright future!"

It's scarier than it looks, and it looks pretty darn scary.

Paige doesn't always dress like a princess when she skates, not that it matters. Her talent and skill with the board are what gets people's attention. (The rainbow socks are kind of her signature, however.)

Her Instagram feed is filled with photos and videos of her skateboarding and surfing, and the body coordination she's gained at such a young age is truly something.

Here she was at three years old:

And here she is at age four:


So, if she dropped into a 6-foot bowl at age three and a 12-foot bowl at age six—is there such a thing as an 18-foot bowl for her to tackle when she's nine?

Paige clearly enjoys skating and has high ambitions in the skating world. "I want to go to the Olympics, and I want to be a pro skater," she told Power of Positivity when she was five. She already seems to be well on her way toward that goal.

How did she get so good? Well, Paige's mom gave her a skateboard when she wasn't even preschool age yet, and she loved it. Her mom got her lessons, and she's spent the past three years skating almost daily. She practices at local skate parks and competes in local competitions.

She also naturally has her fair share of spills, some of which you can see on her Instagram channel. Falling is part of the sport—you can't learn if you don't fall. Conquering the fear of falling is the key, and the thing that's hardest for most people to get over.

Perhaps Paige started too young to let fear override her desire to skate. Perhaps she's been taught to manage her fears, or maybe she's just naturally less afraid than other people. Or maybe there's something magical about the rainbow socks. Whatever it is, it's clear that this girl doesn't let fear get in the way of her doing what she wants to do. An admirable quality in anyone, but particularly striking to see in someone so young.

Way to go, Paige. Your perseverance and courage are inspiring, as is your unique fashion sense. Can't wait to see what you do next.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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