Posted by on Apr 4, 2019 in publications | 0 comments

Effects of Sexuality Education on Sexual Activities of Secondary School Students in Surulere Local Government of Lagos State.


Iwuagwu, J. N                                                                                                                                                                               St. Augustine’s college of education                                                                                                                      Akoka – Lagos. Lagos State                                                                                                                                 08037100920, 08124913919



This research investigated the level of sexual activities of students and implication for sexuality education. The study sought to find out the level of sexual activities of male and female students in Secondary Schools and the implication for sexuality education. Three research questions as well as three null hypothesis were formulated to guide the study. The study consisted of 120 respondents from four different schools in Shomolu Local Government Area of Lagos State. A Likert type questionnaire duly approved was used to collect the data. The data collected were analyzed using descriptive and inferential statistics for the research questions and chi-square for the null hypothesis. Based on the findings, the following recommendations were made: Government and teachers should fashion out strategies to inculcate sex education in Nigerian school curriculum through a more appropriate behavioural change programme. This is to modify the needed sexual behaviour change among the students. Schools counsellors should provide accurate information that will counteract inaccurate information by the students thus allowing the youth to make the right choices for themselves. Religious bodies, NGOs and other stakeholders should be involved in the effort to bring sexuality education in Nigerian schools.

Keyword: Sexual activity, Sexuality education, Student, Youth, Teachers, Government, Behavioural change


The adolescent strives to grow up to be big and yet also to have some of the security that goes with being little. In every society, the adolescent tend to acquire the large population. Adolescent stage is considered to be a stage that involves tremendous influence and problem especially sexually related problems. Adolescence is the period of physical and psychological development from the onset of puberty to maturity and also a period of anxiety.   There is something radical about being an adolescent, yet also something conservative. The adolescent, if able to draw upon his resources, has a great capacity for flexibility, yet he is also in many ways a rigid persons. The adolescent health dilemma has been attributed to their great lack of information and knowledge about the implication of involving in sexual activities. However, most parents and guardians in most part of the world and indeed, Nigeria, often react negatively, and sometimes violently to the idea of introducing sex education in the secondary school curriculum, the negative reaction by parents cut across cultures, tribes, race and religions.  The parental background and the upbringing of the youth really contribute to their involvement in sex activities. 

Sexuality refers to the quality or state of being sexual and includes all thoughts and behaviours that have to do with an individual sexual being. The adolescents aging between twelve and twenty years who incidentally fall within the secondary age are suddenly aware of the tremendous changes that are taking place in their sex organs, want to explore their bodies and involve in sexual activities. These sexual activities refer to the manner in which humans experience and express their sexuality.  It comprises a wide range of activities such as strategies to find or attach partners (acting and display behaviour, interaction between individuals’ physical or emotional intimacy and sexual contact).

 The term sexual activities can refer both to act involving two or more people as in sexual intercourse, oral sex, or mutual masturbation and to the one person activity such as masturbation. Adolescents are highly vulnerable to antisocial behaviours such as prostitution, unsafe sexual activities and abortion among others. The youth in Nigeria are plagued with incessant problem of moral laxity, indecent exposure of private parts of the body in the name of fashion, indecent photographs of sexual intercourse, unwanted pregnancies and moral decadence among youths. This has really exposed the youth to be involved in different sexual activities like, masturbation, coitus, anal intercourse, or genital acts, voyeurism, prostitution, transvestism, trans-sexualism, homosexual and heterosexual.

The educational system is really suffering a set – back, because sex education is not really being taught by experts.  The youth need to be well enlightened about sexuality education to be able to behave adaptively and use their sexual urges for right purposes and at the right time which would guide them to reach level of education they want.

Thus this study is a relevant area to be studied purposely to enlighten the adolescent in the secondary schools by offering useful suggestion that would help to minimize the sexual activities of the secondary school students.  

Concept of Sexuality

Sexuality is a central part of being human, throughout life journey. It encompasses sex, gender identities and roles, sexual orientation, eroticism, pleasure, intimacy and reproduction. It is much more than sexual feelings, sexual thoughts, attitudes, experiences, learning, ideas, values and behaviours of a person whether female or male, it also refers to the totality of who you are, what you believe in, what you feel and how you respond. Sexuality is a complex and confusing aspects of life and the way we resolve needs, desires, values and social expectations, in this area as the potential to lead to outcomes raging from great personal satisfaction to considerable conflict and pains. The nascent sexual urge which emerges at puberty must be blended with other aspects of teenagers’ lives and channelled adaptively and productively (Gbeleyi and Ayinde 2007).

Sexuality is a natural, integral part of every human being. It has to do with physical body and its expression is influenced by personal and social forces. It has five overlapping aspects, comprising human development, emotions and relationships, sexual health, sexual behaviour and sexual violence. (Nwagbara 2003). A male’s sexuality is different from a female’s sexuality. Nature has designed it that way. A man’s sexuality makes him more logical than emotional. For a woman her sexuality makes her more emotional than logical most of the time. In other words, a woman’s emotions are stirred up essentially by words whereas for men, it is by what they see. Adolescents, depending on the environment where they find themselves, can always be classified into three categories as far as sexuality is concerned.

Sexual Activities among Adolescents

Some respondents attribute increasing sexual promiscuity among Nigerian Secondary School adolescents to the idea of keeping them in complete ignorance of sexual matters in an economy that uses sex to promote or advertise their business. In view of the above, one can say that sexual revolution is in its current advanced state now and that it is characterized by demands for new form of sexual freedom, liberation freedom from repressive codes and styles of societal, religious and legal expression. Adolescents’ sexual behaviour does not only start from the social responses but begins with increase in interest in the opposite sex that usually accompanies sexual maturity and ends with the attainment of social and financial independence from the parents. Freud (1969) also said that adolescent social behaviour arises when they notice rapid changes both socially, sexually and physically. At this particular time, they assume to be old and wise enough than adults. The young person tends to turn away from the adults to form strong attachments with contempt of his or her own sex and then shortly with those of the opposite sex. Apart from the fact that at the adolescent stage the secondary sex characteristics like the development of breast, onset of menstruation, hairs in the public part, the girls exhibit some behavioural patterns.

They are highly aggressive and sensitive, they do not show much respect to the elders, they like paying too much attention to their dressing and they like posing, and they always share opinion with their peer group because they regard adult attitudes as “old school/old fashion”. According to a respondent, at this stage, in the Secondary School the adolescent’s behaviour towards sex usually change gradually. They become more interesting and funny. Their enjoyment of mixed company increases and the girls start to consider their relationship with boys.

Types of Sexual Activities 

Genital Intercourse:

Genital intercourse is here defined as involving sexual contact between the sex organs of two persons. The sex organs are the most sensitive erogenous zones of the human body, and for the great majority of men and women genital contact is therefore the favourite form of sexual intercourse. Furthermore, anatomically pains and vagina are easily joined together. Indeed throughout most of human history, it was only this joining of the male and female bodies that made the conception of new human life possible (Caldwell, J.C., P. Caldwell, B.K., and I. Pieris 1998).


The word masturbation is derived from the Latin verb masturbare: to defile by hand or to disturb by hand. The term was introduced into the English language only about 200years ago. Before that time, people apparently used less definite references and descriptions. Such as “youthful passions or “solitary pleasures” still it is important to realize that the term is actually quite imprecise and misleading because both males and females can masturbate without using any hands. Therefore, when modern sex researchers speak of masturbation they refer to “any deliberate bodily self-stimulation that produces a sexual response. Instead of using their hands, both males and females may also simply rub their sex organs against some object such as a pillow, a towel, the bed cover, or the mattress. In certain instances, rhythmic muscular tension alone is sufficient to produce an orgasm.

Anal Intercourse

Anal intercourse is here defined as involving sexual contact between the sex organs of one person and the anus of another. In most individuals, the anus is highly sensitive to the touch and is in-fact, one of the most important erogenous zones. It is therefore hardly surprising that many people enjoy some form of anal stimulation during their sexual activity. Anal intercourse cannot lead to pregnancy, and while it may be very satisfying to both partners. Furthermore, many people in our society are conditioned to consider the anus filthy and repulsive because of its excretory function.


Human beings, like all other mammals, may have sexual intercourse not only with partners of the other sex, but also with those of the same sex. The term homosexual may be used to describe someone who has a clear erotic preference for partners of the same sex (literally, love of boys from pais: boy or rather here male adolescent and eran to love) which was cultivated as a socially beneficial and laudable custom, however, neither the older lover (called “the inspirer”) nor the younger beloved (called “the listener”) was ever assumed to be incapable of relationships with women. ( Lynn, 2000).

Oral Intercourse  

Oral intercourse is here defined as involving sexual contact between the sex organs of one person and the mouth of another. The sex organs and the mouth are the two most easily stimulated erogenous of the body and it is therefore only natural that they should be brought into direct contact. However in human societies and historical periods, Oral intercourse was considered sinful, criminal or sick and couples who engaged in it were severely punished. As a matter of fact, in many states of the United States today, oral intercourse (even between husband and wife) is still defined as a crime against nature” which carry a penalty of many years in prison.


Motives Underlying Sexual Activities       

Many different motives may lead people (adolescents) to enter into sexual relationships or to engage in sexual activities/behaviour in an ongoing relationship. Consequently, two partners may not be motivated by some desires or intentions. To date, there has not been much research on whether mismatched motives increase the likelihood of trouble in sexual interactions, but that’s certainly a logical possibility. However, it has been found that the followings are part of motives underlying sexual interactions or behaviours:

  • Affection: Longing for love, closeness, and physical and emotional union.
  • Lust: Having passion for increasing and then gratifying sexual desires with a focus on sensual arousal, fantasies and delight in touching and being touched.
  • Duty: Feeling that it is our responsibility to have sex on schedule or to keep a partner from being uncomfortably frustrated.

Typically, a female feels that she can’t leave a male unsatisfied, and the notion that he could masturbate or that she might feel equally uncomfortable if lightly aroused but not satisfied is missing from traditional scripts.

  • Boredom: Using sex to enhance a dull environment and routine activities.
  • Mending wounds: Using a sex as a way to make up after argument of even to avoid dealing with a conflict.
  • Accomplishment: Wanting to have sex as often as we think everyone else does. In every conceivable position and perhaps break records with our “scores”.
  • Recreation: Having sex for fun and games or for the sake of creating pleasant sensations for each other.
  • Self affirmation: Acting out our perceived sexual identity so that the other will notice and approved of it.

A number of studies suggest that there are gender differences in the motives underlying sexual activity. In comparison to woman, men appear to be motivated more by lust and the desire for physical gratification. In contrast, women are more likely to be motivated by their desire to express love and emotional commitment. In one study of college students which they asked subjects, what was your most important reason for having sexual intercourse on the most recent occasion? Lust and pleasure motives were cited by 51% of the men, but only 9% of the women, love and emotional reasons were cited 51% of the women, but only 24% of the men. Similar gender differences have been found in a community survey that looked at broader sample of subjects than just college students. Moreover these gender differences appear to transcend sexual orientation, as they were observed in homo sexual as well as heterosexual. The basis for these differences between men and women remain to be investigated, some theorists believed that these differences are due to gender role.

The Concept of Sexuality Education

Sexuality education is the process of acquiring information and forming attitudes and beliefs about sex, sexual identity, relationships and intimacy. It is also about developing young people’s skills so that they make informed choices about their behaviour and feel confident and competent about acting on these choices, it is widely accepted that young people have a right to sexuality education, partly because it is a means by which they are helped to protect themselves against abuse, exploitations, unintended pregnancies, sexually transmitted diseases and HIV AIDS. The basic content of sexuality education includes male and female anatomy, the physiology of reproduction, psychological similarities and differences between the sexes and the ethics of sexual behaviour and self respect and concept of individual sexuality.

 It is believed that sexuality education is not indoctrinating individuals with the issues of human sexuality, but the proper guidance an individual receives concerning his sexual behaviour and relationship. In this way it means that the adolescents at least are allowed to some extents to express themselves and also make personal choices. This is so because sex education is not dogmatic in nature. It is also stated that sex education is concerned with instruction and discussion of various aspects of sexuality and human sexual behaviour including the mechanism of reproduction, the physiological and psychological phenomena relating to sexual behaviours, the social phenomenon of males and females in the society and in relationship to each other, and the problems of family life. Potts and Short (1999), have rightly observed that sex is a powerful force and its meaning has to be revealed to adolescents to enable them make rational decision based on self control and personal codes of conduct. According to him sexuality education is desired to replace ignorance, fear, secrecy and guilt with knowledge, understanding, openness and rationality. Hence, the teacher or instructor administrator must be very careful and accurate to make sure that the adolescent are fed with the right information so that they don’t feel betrayed or out of place when they discover things themselves. According to a respondent, it is that aspect of general education a child receives concerning his sex roles and relationships to others which means understanding one’s own sexuality. This is to say that sexuality education can be important in teaching adolescents grooming and good human relation. The Federal Ministry of Education made a historic commitment to implementing sexuality education throughout Nigerian schools. (National Guardians task force 1996; SIECUS 2000).

Sexuality Education

The Sex Information and Education Council of the United States (SIESCUS) recommended the term sexuality education (1992). This term refers to Comprehensive Curriculum of instruction addressing not only sexual anatomy and physiology Disseminated Infections (SDIS) and related topics; sexuality education is viewed by SIECUS report (1996) as “a lifelong process of acquiring information and forming attitudes, beliefs and values about identity, relationships and intimacy. Sexuality education is a knowledge thought and imparted on the young ones mostly of the school age. The course contents encompass the actual knowledge about sex, those involved in the act, when it is possible for one to engage in sex and when not, and the implications of deviating from the guidelines. It also touches on drugs which is now a cultural habit of our young ones.

Sexuality education can also be seen as a means of ensuring morality in the younger generations it is a means of preventing sexually deviant behaviour in the society. It can also be viewed as those aspects of the curriculum whether formal or informal which jointly encompass such topics as anatomy and physiology of the reproductive systems, sexually transmitted diseases, or appropriate social aspect of sexuality. It is the type of education that exposes a child to the understanding and knowledge of who he or she is.

Sexuality education looks at how personal hygiene can be carried out, how an individual can relate with people of same or opposite sex and how positive attitudes toward future marriage and happiness can be achieved since marriage is all about happiness. Sexuality educational involves also the process of teaching the adolescent child how to develop positive and wholesome attitudes to heterosexual and social relationship at the right time and in the right forum.

Sexuality education also stands for the process of training the adolescent to know when he or she is ripe to engage in heterosexual relationship. Sexuality education is the education through which the adolescents are assisted to learn the appropriate type of gender behaviour.

There are word expectations for girls. Appropriate gender behaviour includes such behaviour as type of dressing, type of discussion, manner of approach, to opposite sex. These days men are into cosmetics and can wear earrings, including jerry curling their hair so as to look feminine, ladies on the other hand are too into skin cut, they wear trousers and all kinds of men’s clothes, boys and girls trousers and want to change their natural skin and so on . All these are inappropriate gender behaviour and sexuality education aims at addressing them. 

Sexuality education is the only avenue through which adolescent boys and girls are trained to adjust emotionally. It is a means whereby boys and girls are taught personal hygiene and other sexual paraphernalia talking about sexuality education. If a child is taught all these then he will learn how to manage self data appropriately, dress appropriately, discuss maturely and marry appropriate for these are the seat of happiness.

Evolution of Sexuality Education in Nigeria           

Initial efforts to introduce sexuality issues in the Nigerian educational system was done through the introduction and institutionalization of population education which was considered as a potential way of tacking the problem of rapid population growth and its consequences for socio-economic development in the country.  The need to inform young people about the causes and consequences of uncontrolled rapid population growth has become paramount hence the national population of 1988 which was recently revised and officially launched in February 2005, was put in place with emphasis on population education as a potential vehicle to translate the population policy into action.

Need For Sexuality Education in Nigerian Secondary Schools

Many parents lack the necessary knowledge about sex education and some of their children too lack accurate knowledge while others are misinformed. Thus evidence of sexual maladjustment and sex related crimes abound in the society. A respondent made this study to understand that most parents and guardians in most part of the world and, indeed Nigeria often react negatively and sometimes violently to the idea of introduction of sex education in secondary school curriculum. According to him, the negative reaction by parents cut across cultures, tribes, race and religions, while emphasizing the importance of sex education in the Secondary Schools, Dhun (1997) is of the opinion that the post primary school age which ranges between twelve and seventeen years of the growing child is not only the most impressionable but the most inquisitive period. Thus, sex education at this level becomes even more imperative and fundamental that the protagonist of the course might be hesitant to admit. This is because the general malaise in the present Nigerian society could be traced to maima for sex. Sex maima in turn is a product of inadequate or ill-informed idea on the debts and purposes of sex.

Other reasons against the inclusion of sex education in the school curriculum are based on the belief by parents that sex education leads to sexual experimentation and productivity and general moral decay among youth. Those who support the teaching of sex education often stress the fact that they both will learn about sexual matters anywhere, any how and that it may even be dangerous for them to learn the wrong facts from misguided sources. Dodge and Reece (2004) observe that the absence and pornographic materials are on sale everywhere. Thus sex is sold and bought openly. Female teenagers boast of what wonders their hip rolling correspondence act could work on men. Some marriages are contracted today and packed up six months later. The average Nigerian male adolescent’s gossip is centered on his ladies/women society. Their problems include adultery, prostitution, rape, abortion, illegitimate children, abandonments of newly born babies, spread of sexually transmitted diseases (especially, HIV/ AIDS),intimidating frequency of divorce and sex perversion masochism, lesbianism, homosexuality etc.). All of which directly or indirectly relate to the issue of lack of sex education or the search for harmonious living

Hypothesis of Study

  • There is no significant high level of sexual activities among senior secondary school students.
  • Adolescents’ sexual activities have no significant impact on their academic performance.
  • Sexuality education is not significantly taught in secondary schools



The study is a survey design, population consists of adolescent students in some selected secondary schools in Surulere local government of Lagos State. Sample for the study consisted of 120 adolescent students who were randomly selected from the selected secondary schools in Surulere Local Government Area. The instrument used for data collection was a 20item questionnaire developed by the researcher through intensive review of relevant materials on effect on sexual activities of the adolescents in secondary schools. The face validation of the instrument was insured by giving it to some lecturers in Education. The instrument was trial tested using twenty students in Yaba L.G.A. The test retest reliability coefficient of 0.74 was realized using Crombach Alpha. The data collected for the study was analysed using Chi-square and t-test respectively.

Research Hypothesis One

H01: There will be no significant high level of sexual activities among senior secondary school students.  

  Observed N Expected N Residual X2cal X2t df Level of sign
Strongly disagree



Strongly Agree
























Table 2:  Chi-Square Test

From the Chi-Square analysis of research hypothesis one, it was discovered that the Calculated value of 168.997 was greater than t value =7.82 at 0.05 level of significant with three degree of freedom.

Based on this, the null hypothesis which says that “there is no significant high level of sexual activities among senior secondary school students was thus rejected

Research Hypothesis Two

H01.  Adolescents’ sexual activities has no significant negative impact on their academic performance

Table 3: Chi-square test

  Observed N Expected N Residual X2cal X2t Df Level of sign
Strongly Disagree


Strongly Agree























From the Chi-Square analysis of research hypothesis, it was discovered that the Calculated value of 45.15was greater than Tabulated value of = 7.82at 0.05 level of significant with one degree of freedom.

Based on this, the null hypothesis which says that “adolescent’s sexual activities have no significant impact on their academic performance was accepted

Research Hypothesis Three

H01.  Sexuality education is not significantly taught in secondary schools.

Table 3:  Chi-Square Test

  Observed N Expected N Residual X2cal X2t df Level of sign
Strongly Disagree



Strongly Agree

























From the Chi-Square analysis of research hypothesis, it was discovered that the Calculated value of 97.8was greater than Tabulated value of = 7.82at 0.05 level of significant with three degree of freedom.

Based on this, the null hypothesis which says that sexuality education is not significantly taught in school was thus rejected.

Discussion of Findings

Hypothesis one states that there is no significant high level of sexuality activities among senior secondary school students. From the analysis on Table 1, it was found there is a high level of sexual activities among senior secondary school students. This is evident from the result obtained which shows that the calculated value (X2 Cal) of 168.997 to be greater than the table value (X2t) of 7.815 at 3 degree of freedom. This study is in line with earlier studies by Adegoke (2001) who pointed out the high level of sexual activities among the secondary school students. Similarly, hypothesis 2 shows that adolescents’ sexual activities have a significant negative impact on their academic performance thus table 2 shows a calculated value (X2 Cal) of  45.15 to be greater than the table value (X2t) of 7.815 at 3 degree of freedom.

This result was supported by other scholars (Sheu (2003); Rice (1975); Moses (1991)) that early involvement of adolescent in sexual activities has negative consequences on their overall academic performance of students in school.

Finally, hypothesis three shows that sexuality education is significantly being taught in school. This is evident from the tested hypothesis in table 3 thus the calculated value (X2 Cal) of 45.15 is greater than the table value (X2t) of 7.815 at 3 degree of freedom. This result contradicts the fact that sexuality education is yet to be implemented in schools at the national level expect for the schools used few school being used for pilot study in some states. However, these findings may be as a result of knowledge the respondents has gained in other subjects like biology, health education and so on.


Based on the findings it was recommended that;

  • Government and teachers should fashion out strategies to inculcate sexuality education in Nigeria school curriculum through a more appropriate behavioural change programme. This is to modify the needed sexual behaviour change among the students.
  • Schools’ counsellors should provide accurate information that will counteract inaccurate information by the students thus allowing the youth to make the right choices for themselves.
  • Religious bodies, NGOs and other stakeholders should be involved in the effort to bring sexuality education in Nigerian schools.
  • The government should allow the entrenchment of sexuality education into the curriculum of all the schools in Nigeria. A well developed sexuality education will promote healthy life style among the youths and all children.
  • Sexuality education should be put into a lifelong perspective. Actively encourage school counsellors and parents to discuss sexuality and contraception consistent with the family’s attitudes, values, beliefs, and circumstances beginning early in the child’s life.
  • The society should not impose values on the adolescents; rather they should be aware of the diversity of family circumstances, such as families with same-sex parents. Guide these students or refer them to agencies or counsellors that can help them if they report difficulties.
  • Parents and school counsellors should be encouraged to offer sexuality education and discuss sex-related issues that are appropriate for the child’s or adolescents developmental level.
  • Use proper terms for anatomic parts.
  • Discuss masturbation and other sexual behaviours of all children, even those as young as preschool age, openly with parents.
  • Initiate discussions about sexuality with children at relevant opportunities, such as the birth of a sibling or pet. Encourage parents to answer children’s questions fully and accurately. Offer parents resources to assist their communication efforts at home.
  • Sexuality education should be provided with respects of confidentiality and acknowledges the individual patient’s and family’s issues and values.



The issue of inclusion of sexuality education in the Nigeria secondary school curriculum has drawn much attention to the various stakeholders in the Educational sector with the religious bodies being the arrow head against the successful introduction of this awaited program in Nigerian school system. This research work has also reawakened this call for inclusion and implementation of sexuality education in Nigeria school curriculum to reduce the high level of sexual activities among the adolescents. As evidence from various studies has shown Nigeria youths are living with a lot of delusions or myths, therefore he or she needs proper education that would help him or her to channel his or her impulses along responsible and desirable ends.           


Caldwell, J.C., P. Caldwell, B.K., and I. Pieris (1998): “The Construction of Adolescence in a Changing World: Implications for Sexuality, Reproduction, and Marriage”. Studies in Family Planning 29 (2): 137 – 153.

Dhun, P. (1997), Education in Human Sexuality. Mumbani: Family Planning Association of India.

Dodge, B., Reece, M. (2004), Sexuality Compulsivity among Heterosexual College Students. Journal of Sex Research 41 (4) 343 – 350.

Gbeleyi, A. and Ayinde, B. (2007): Adolescent Sexuality and Leadership Skills. A wise Teenager’s Companion. FHL Publishers.

Nwagbara, C. (2003): Education in Nigeria Early Learning and Related Critical Issues: Lagos Tait Publications.

Ponton, Lynn (2000): The Sex Lives of Teenagers. New York: Dutton. Pg 2. ISBN 042282608.

Potts, M. & Short, R. (1999). Ever since Adam and Eve: The Evolution of human              sexuality. Cambridge; Cambridge University Press.

Rice, F.P. (1975): The Adolescent Development Relationship and Culture Boston: Allyn and Bacon Inc.

Siecus Report (1996): Siecus Position Statement on Human Sexuality, Sexual Health and Sexual Education and Information. Vol. 24 No 3 Feb 1, Mar. 1996, Pg 21.

Sigmund Freud (1949): Theories of Adolescents and Development. American Medical Ass.

















The Role of Children’s Literature in National Development


  1. D.N. Epuchie                                                                                                                                                         Department of Linguistics and Nigerian Languages Alvan Ikoku Federal College of Education, Owerri                  +2348037059422


MRS. V.N. Epuchie                                                                                                                                                              Department of Early Childhood Care and Education Alvan Ikoku Federal College of Education, Owerri +2348035086166





It is not surprising that Science and Technology are taking the world by storm and we are delighted for that. The days are gone when children would sit around the fire listening to age-old stories. Nowadays, children most often use their leisure time fiddling with either computer or their cellular phones while others are glued to the television watching endless movies. The values and virtues, for which the Africans have strived to preserve over the years, are fast being eroded by Technology. If it is true that the child is the father of the man, there is need for positive human development which will in turn enhance our national development. The creative writer who knows his onus has all it takes to build up future hopes by employing local mediums and frameworks for internalizing such a knowledge that could be found in out literatures and languages as well as myths and legends. The laying of good foundation through children’s literature which is bedrock for positive human development becomes a sine qua non for a credible national development. This paper is a clarion call to creative writers to contribute their quota towards the realization of this objective.




Children’s Literature: A Definition

                To a layman children’s literature could be regarded as prose or drama or poetry that is written with the interest of children at heart. However, Hunt (1995) posits that it is difficult to define children’s literature when he writes;

[T]he answer is that we all know what it is, (or what it is not) … It is everything from a sixteenth century chapbook to a twentieth century computer-based interactive device. It is everything from the folktale to the problem novel, from the picture book to the classroom poem, from the tract to the penny dreadful, from the classic to the comic (p. ix)

Oxford Research Encyclopedia supports Hunt’s contention when it submits that, “in simple term, children’s literature comprises texts (novels, short stories, picture books, fairy tales, myths, poems) produced in various formats (prints, digital, film, games) for children and young people (0-18 years, approximately). However, it acknowledges the fact that, “A problem with simple definition … is that invariably, they are proven to be inadequate”.

                As if to support the view that there are varied opinions on what should constitute children’s literature, “children’s Genres” in bretlinks (2018) sees children’s literature as “both fiction & non-fiction books written especially for children from 0 to 12 years old”. This definition unlike the last one excludes literature for teenagers which were referred to as “young adolescent literature.” Simply put therefore children’s literature could be seen as the collection of books that are read to and by children. This spans the range from alphabet books and nursery rhyme collections for the very young through novels and informational books.


Characteristics of a Good Children’s Literature

                It is a fact that writing a good children’s literature is not an easy task. There are certain things which a good children’s literary practitioner have to consider since his readers are quite young and sensitive. First and foremost, children’s literature should have a simple idea and theme. This simply means that such literary works should be devoid of complicated plots and sub-plots rather the storyline should be straight forward. Creating unrealistic situations should completely be avoided. Everything that happens in children’s literature, unless it’s a fantasy or fairy tale should happen in a real life situation.

                Secondly, children’s literature should have realistic characters. Writers of children’s literature should be conscious of the creation of childhood behaviours in their characters. It should be emphasized here that characters in children’s literature should seem real, even in fairy tales. These characters in real life situations make mistakes and correct themselves. It is through these mistakes and corrections that children learn how to conquer their problems. Also, the characters should experience physical and emotional growth as the story progresses.

                Next is that children’s literature contains moral lessons. Every story that is meant for children’s consumption has a lesson to teach. These lessons are simple and are easy to understand. Examples of such moral lessons include “do not lie” “do not cheat” “one good turn deserves another” or “do not fight with your siblings and so forth.

                Another notable characteristic of children’s literature is that they are rendered in bold and readable words as well as captivating illustrations. Children are visual readers, especially the young ones. They depend a lot on images even if they can already read and understand the story. Therefore, a good children’s literature should have illustrations that can easily captivate them. The illustrations offer an element of excitement, that will not only make the children to keep reading the text but will also be eager to find out what will happen next and (or) what the next illustrations will look like. Besides, children’s literature is much more interesting if the words they read have a visual representation. Also, the text of children’s literature should be big enough for it to be easy for them to read as well as to take care of those that have visual impairment.

                The importance of language in the consideration of what should constitute children’s literature cannot be over-emphasized. Literature as it is well known is language in use. Language is the hub on which literature revolves and for children to understand what they are reading in literature, according to Epuchie (2006).

…presupposes that the language employed should be very simple… children at pre-adolescence stage of their mental development have very short attention span. They get bored in no time if they are compelled to look up for the meanings of words in order to comprehend what they are reading… (62)

Unoh (1984) is also aware of the disabilities which children at this stage of their mental development will be thrown into if they are exposed to this situation when he says:

In a situation where the child may not know the meaning of the word used in a sentence… he will move from word to word, from sentence to sentence with little or no grasp of what he is reading, therefore he loses the trend of the story he is reading and stops. (4)


Issues and Challenges in the Creation of Children’s Literature

                It has been observed that children’s literature has been relegated to the background for too long. Hunt confirms that children’s literature as a body of texts has been marginalized. To Ezenwa Ohaeto as cited by Ifechelobi (2009) … although Hunt particularizes his observations on western children’s literature, those observations are no less relevant to Nigerian children’s literature…  Mohammed (2013) corroborates this when he attests that there are some challenges militating against harnessing children’s literature for Nigeria’s transformation agenda. These he outlines as follows:

  • Poor reading culture and lack of enthusiasm towards reading
  • Non-availability of literary reading materials
  • Non-teaching of literature in most secondary schools especially in Kano state.
  • Non-availability of qualified literature teachers who can effectively handle the teaching of literature.
  • Problem of demarcating between adults and children’s literature.

In addition to Ifechelobi and Mohammed’s observations, investigations have shown that other issues and challenges still exist in the creation of children’s literature in other states of the federation. These include;

  • Complete absence of literature in the school curriculum of Junior Secondary School (JSS) students in Imo state. This is replaced with “young adult literature” in the senior secondary section.
  • Non-availability of literature is also a significant phenomenon in Delta State schools. Literature is known as “English studies” in Delta state schools and as a result of the volume of the texts, students find it difficult to read even when they are given take home assignments.
  • Undue patronage that is given to simplified series by English Teachers who find it difficult to read recommended texts.
  • Poor foundation that is occasioned by the enroute which technology has made into our lives and so forth.

Another issue that needs to be addressed is the quality of the output of what constitutes children’s literature. It is pertinent to point out here that it will be unfair to suggest that there is a dearth of children’s literature. A lot had been written and published but some of them are not geared towards the positive develop of the young ones. Nwahunanya (1998) deplores this situation when he observes that,

… in spite of copious out pour from writers’ pens… the quality of the output is so low and frightening shoddy that one has cause to get worried about the potential dangers of allowing our children feed their young impressionable minds on such literary diet (120).


National Development

                National development is a gradual and advanced improvement through progressive changes in the socio-political life of a nation. On the other hand, it could be seen in the words of Danjuma (2018) as the gradual and progressive growth of a nation so that it becomes more advanced, stronger, sophisticated and self sufficient. To Alao (1991) national development is

… a multi-objective process designed to achieve among others, the eradication of poverty and disease, the liberation of the individual, increase productivity within a balanced ecosystem, justice and equity, individual freedom and social security, individual cultural buoyancy, and the stable society (3)


National development defined within a wide context as above means providing the platform for the growth of the nation in terms of political maturity, reduction of poverty, reduction of unemployment, mass participation in government, economic well being, growth in per capital income, tackling the problem of insecurity, forging unity in diversity, provision of better health care, reduction of infant mortality as well as bridging the gap between the rich and the poor. Nigeria is sitting on a keg of gun powder as she has a long way to go in order to bring sanity to the nation. The numerous ills and imperfections in our socio-cultural, economic and political system that are inflicted on the poor masses need to be corrected before they get out of hand.


Classification of Children’s Literature

                Children’s literature can be divided into categories either according to genre or the intended age of the reader. A literary genre is a category of literary compositions. Genres may be determined by technique, tone, content or length. According to Anderson (2006), children’s literature could be classified into six categories with some significant subgenres. Like:

  • Picture books: These are concept books that teach the alphabet or counting for example pattern books and wordless books.
  • Traditional Literature: These are made up of folktales which convey the legends, customs, superstitions and beliefs of people in previous civilizations. These genres could further be broken into subgenres of myths, fables, legends and fairy tales.
  • Fiction: These include fantasy, realistic and historical fiction.
  • Non-fictional tales
  • Biography and autobiography and
  • Poetry and verse

In terms of Age category, the criteria for its divisions are vague, and books near a boardline may be classified either way, in which case, books for younger children tend to be written in simple language, use large print and have many illustrations while books for older children use increasingly complex language, normal print and fewer illustration. The categories with an age range are as follow:

  • Picture books: These types of books are appropriate for pre-readers or children whose ages are from 0-5 years.
  • Early Reader books: The books here are appropriate for children whose ages range from 5-7 years. These books are often designed to help a child build his or her reading skills.
  • Chapter books: These are books that are appropriate for children of ages 7-12 years. Short chapter books that are appropriate for ages 7-9 are included in this category. also long chapter books that are appropriate for ages 9-12 years are part of this category as well.
  • Young adult fiction that is appropriate for children of ages 12-18 years is the final category.

Furthermore, Segun in Ikonne et al (1992) makes a case for the categorization of children according to their ages: “The age-levels widely accepted by children’s literature specialists are: Pre-school (0-4); very young children (5-7), middle aged children (8-12); adolescents (13-15) and young adults (17-18).”  This categorization is meant to, among other things, guide the writer of children’s books in considering the theme to deploy; characterization (especially in fiction), style and language use. This will ultimately guarantee a productive writing and reading of children literature. In line with this categorization, Iwuji (2015) believes that it is safer to have four main age brackets in children’s literature. This according to her is in consonance with the rate of sophistication amongst the 21st century children where it is not unusual to find children of sixteen in the university as well as to correct the fundamental weakness in Segun’s categorization where no provision was made for “child-adults” beyond the age of 18. In the light of the foregoing, she makes the case that ages 0 to 5 be called lower class; 6 to 8 enlightenment class; 9 to 13 middle class and 14 and above to be known as advanced class. However, the writers of this paper tend to differ from her opinion; rather they suggest that children’s literature be categorized within three main age brackets of 0-5 pre-school; 6-12 young and middle aged children and 13-18 adolescents and young adults.


i). Examples of 0-5 Pre-School Children’s Literature

                Storytelling is as old as man. Pre-school like stories that are well told. Storytelling is the means by which cultural heritage is passed down from one generation to another. For centuries, stories were told by African’s in their native languages, many of such stories were told during social gatherings. Most of these stories varied between mythic narratives dealing with creation and basic proverbs showcasing moral lessons and human wisdom; the likes of the stories that are told in the NTA programme entitled TALES AT MOONLIGHT. Here, the storyteller sits at the middle while children sit in a circle round him. At the end of each session of storytelling children re-enact the moral lessons that are contained in the stories that are told.

                Examples of the stories that could be told here include: Bhattachariee (2017) the Golden Touch” and “the Ant and Grasshopper” stories. The golden touch story is about the greedy rich man who chanced upon meeting a fairy whose hair was caught in a few tree branches. Realising that he had an opportunity to make more money, he asked for a wish in return for helping the fairy. He requested that, “all that I touch should turn to gold” and his wish was granted by the grateful fairy. The greedy man rushed home to tell his wife and daughter about his new exploits which he has been using in touching stones and pebbles and converting them into gold. Once he got home, his little daughter rushed to greet him. As soon as he bent down to scoop her up in his arms, she turned into a gold statue. He realized his folly and spent the rest of his days searching for the fairy to take away his wish. The moral lesson in this story is that people should be satisfied with what they have as greediness will always lead to a downfall.

                On the other hand, the Ant and Grasshopper story showcased two best friends. While the grasshopper liked to relax and play his guitar, the ant would work hard throughout the whole day. The grasshopper would persuade the ant to take a break and relax with him but the ant would refuse and continue his work. Soon, the winter came; when the days and nights became so cold that very few creatures dare to go out. As a result of this, the grasshopper could not find any food to eat while the ant had enough food for him that lasted throughout the winter. The moral lesson which this story tends to teach is that one should not be lazy at home. Also, right things should be done at the right time.


ii). Examples of 6-12 Young and Middle Aged Children’s Literature

                Children’s literature for the young and middle aged should have a child protagonist and an issue that concerns children. The chief character should be of the age of the intended audience. The reason for this is that children identify more easily with one of their own.

                Secondly, children’s literature for young and middle aged should have a straight forward storyline with a linear and limited time sequence in a confined setting. It should focus on one or two main characters, cover short time sequences; from problem to solution and most often has no flashbacks.

                Also, its language should be concrete and vivid and not overtly complex. Books without pictures need to have more verbal description to help children visualize characters and settings. Dialogue should be used to move the story along as well as give glimpses of the characters motives. This will further help readers see more of what characters do than what they say. Such books present “real-world” problem or challenge and show how a young person solves that problem. Books like “The Cattle Thieves by John Chiakwelu. Tonye and the Kingfish by Gabriel Okara and Fulfilling Promises by Victoria John Ebere are being recommended. The Cattle thieves’ showcases bravery exhibited by Effiong, the protagonist in dislodging the cattle thieves and making it possible for the villages to catch the thieves.

                On the other hand, Tonye and the Kingfish shows how Tonye was pushed into action as a result of the twelve strokes of the cane he received from his teacher for not going for fishing. He later recovered from the shock and joined his friends in fishing expedition. He was rewarded with the kingfish he caught which pleaded that it should not be killed. The pity and kindness which he showed to the kingfish brought wealth and affluence to him and his parents.

                Finally, Fulfilling Promises is a book of five short stories with different moral lessons to teach; using a central character to portray a different idea. Each storyline is straightforward and has a moral lesson to teach. The first story emphasizes the essence of sincerity and truthfulness using Ernest who returned the money which his master misplaced, to him when he thought that he has lost the money.

                The second story showcases the shame and disappointments that greeted Mgbechi who stole and hid the sum of twenty thousand naira in between her laps and was subsequently exposed by Ernest.

                The third story shows how Ernest rescued his brother Ebubenna from death. Ebubenna could have lost his life through the combination of traditional and western medicine to cure typhoid fever by her ignorant mother but for the timely intervention of Ernest.

                The fourth story emphasizes the essence of living a prayerful life and having trust in God. This manifested itself in Ernest’s exoneration from accusations of murder. It is only God’s intervention that made Ernest escape from being lynched by angry mob.

                The fifth and last story stresses on the price of insincerity and unfulfilled promise. In this story, Isaac who was once very rich lost all he had as a result of not fulfilling his promise to Ernest who served him faithfully. Ernest took his problem to God and He responded by making Isaac to lose all he had. However, the intervention of a preacher who exposed his problem to him and made him to make reparation for his wrong doing normalized the situation.

iii). Examples Of 13-18 Adolescents and Young Adults Children’s Literature

                Nigeria is in dire need of a robust national children’s literature programme especially at Adolescents and young adults’ age. At this age, the works of the likes of Chinua Achebe, Onuora Nzekwu, Cyprain Ekwensi (all of blessed memory) and Eddie Iroh among others are being recommended. These authors wrote significant works for children mainly to educate, instill good moral virtues as well as help awaken the spirit of nationalism Great literary texts like Chike and the River, Eze Goes to School, Without a Silver Spoon and the Passport of Mallam Illiaare shining examples in this regard.

                Chike is the protagonist in Chinua Achebe’s touching story of an eleven-year-old Nigerian boy who has to leave his village in order to continue his schooling in the big city on the shores of the River Niger. Chike was excited to learn that he would be living with his uncle at Onitsha to continue with his schooling. However, his first impressions of life in Onitsha are filled with confusion. Unlike in Umuofia where everybody is known, but in Onitsha, his new environment even people who lived under the same roof were strangers to each other. As a result of the strictness of his uncle Chike finds easier companionship with his uncle’s servant, Samuel and his new school friends. His friend tells him how “easy” it is to cross the River Niger by ferry at the cost of one shilling for the return trip. Chike embarks on a search for a shilling he needs in order to achieve his purpose. He however learnt his bitter lesson which stem from finding out the hard way that magicians who claim to double your money are not to be trusted. Although this book was written more than forty years ago, much of the underlying issues and realities are still relevant today in African countries and elsewhere children are still sent off to relatives who can better afford to look after them and their education. Children still feel lonely and lost in their new environments and align themselves to real or false friends. They still yearn as much to travel to places they have dreamt of. They sometimes get themselves into potential trouble for taking such initiative. Chike and the River is a must read for adolescents and young adults.

                On the other hand, Eze Goes to School co-authored by Onuora Nzekwu and Micheal Crowder remains one of those classical master pieces by pioneer African writers that may never outlive their relevance in the society. The book exposes the obstacles which Eze, the protagonist had to pass through in his quest to acquire Education. Surprisingly and sadly too, these obstacles are still being experienced by some children in the country today. Set in the Eastern part of the country, the book narrates how 7 year old Eze Adi from this village turns out to be the first child in the community to attend both primary and secondary school. His father, Okonkwo Adi, though not educated, is determined that his only son must go to school, having lived in Obodo, the headquarters of their district. This dream is cut short by the death of Mr. Adi following a Leopard attack. He however leaves an instruction that his son, Eze must continue his education. That instruction is disregarded by his brother who expend all he has in giving him a befitting burial. Eze’s mother’s protest to this falls on deaf ears and the result is better read than imagined. His mother falls ill as a result of the death of her husband and ill treatment by her in-laws. While she recuperates, the poor lad ventures into gardening as a result of his doggedness and makes a living out of it. Although his involvement in such extra work load pulls him down to the second position in class, this attitude of not resigning to fate needs to be emulated by other children. Eze secures a scholarship through the help of his teacher, Mr. Okafor from Mr. Wilberforce Ezeilo, a Second World War veteran who established a scholarship fund. Through this, Eze realizes his dream of securing a place in one of the big colleges at Onitsha.

                Next, is Without A Silver Spoon by Eddie Iroh that tells the story of a 10 year old boy; Urechokwe and his struggle to further his education in the face of unseemly (mostly financial) vicissitudes. Urechokwe whose brother inadvertently had to drop out of school to work as an apprentice in a faraway location due to financial constraints, faces similar fate when he was chased out of his classroom for failure to pay his fees. A brilliant and industrious boy as he was, he intimated an idea to his parents about how his fees would be taken care of, if he stayed with a teacher and worked as a houseboy. Things went on smoothly until he was hit with a double barreled accusation of thievery. The author further narrates how he juggled his academic pursuits with his honest streak, high expectations and life’s many challenges. Eddie Iroh expertly discussed unscrupulous elements, dogged determination, resolute and unyielding challenges, ideals parents would want their children to live up to, people running the rule over other people, the curious dichotomy of good and evil, triumph of good over evil and the sweet taste of eventual victory for the hustler that culminated in bringing out the theme of the book which is “honesty is the best policy”


Role of Children’s Literature in National Development

                Literature is a reflection of life that is lived in the society. In order words, literature is a literary composition that mirrors the happenings in human society. Literature exposes the nation’s world view as well as the social, economic and political spheres of life. Literature educates as well as entertains. It exposes the nation’s vices with a view to proffering solutions to them. That is why it is said that if a society is corrupt or violent its literary works will depict it. As a watchdog of the society, it points out where things are wrong. It identifies various societal problems like Prostitution, Armed Robbery, Kidnapping, Cyber crime and so forth and develops themes on them. For instance, as corruption is ravaging the Nigerian nation now, children’s literature could be developed around the theme of corruption by way of discouraging the act. Armah and Achebe have demonstrated that, by using their literary texts entitled The Beautiful Ones Are Not Yet Born and A Man of the People respectively where evils of corruption are enormously exposed. Children’s Literature could also be used to teach patriotism which is lacking in our national life today. For instance in The Trial of Dedan Kimathi Ngugi and Mugo explored fully the theme of patriotism. If it is true that the child is the father of the man, there is need for positive human developments which will in turn enhance national development. Since the future of the nation lies in the hands of children, literature has all it takes to build up these future hopes as well as help them realize their potentials.



                The importance of children’s literature as a bedrock to the intellectual development of the child cannot be over-emphasized. The negative influence of technology coupled with the challenges of globalization need to be curtailed through the introduction of a robust children’s literature programme. The consequences of one’s involvement in crime and other vices could be effectively used in children’s literary palace to stem the tide of their involvement in crime. Concrete efforts should be made to resuscitate children’s Literature programme in schools. If workable plan of action is taken to use literature as a yardstick for children’s total transformation, the nation’s development will be greatly enhanced.




Achebe, C. (1966). Chike and the River. South Africa: Cambridge University Press.

Alao, N. (1991). “The Humanities and our Development Efforts” in Eruvetine, A.E. & Mba, N. (eds.) The Humanities and National Development in Nigeria. Lagos: Nelson Publishers.

Anderson, N.L. (2006). Elementary Children’s Literature: The basics for teachers and parents, 2nd Edition. United Kingdom: Pearson.

Bhattacharee, D. (2017).Top 15 Short Moral Stories for Kids. Retrieved on the 25th of Nov. 2015.

Chiakwelu, j. (2009). The Cattle Thieves. Onitsha: Cape publishers.

“Children’s Genres”.’s-genre.htm. Retrieved 23/8/2018.

“Children’s Literature in Education – Oxford Research Encyclopedia” http://education.oxfordre .com/view/10.1093/acrefore/97801902640… Retrieved 23/8/2018.

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