The Children’s Centre originated out of the desire of women to create a better learning environment for their children. In the late 1970s a group of young mothers at the University of Nigeria saw the need to help children develop their full potential by providing a broad range of educational and recreational resources. The project was adopted by the University Women’s Association and developed on a voluntary basis by a committee of women in relevant professions.
The initial focus was on the promotion of voluntary reading. As a result, the library opened as the first component of the project on October 17, 1978, during the National Library Week. The library was kept open in the early years through the voluntary service of members of the Children’s Centre Library Committee.
Initial funds came from the University Women’s Association and Nigerian Association of University Women, Nsukka Branch, with accommodation provided by the Department of Health and Physical Education. For the next eight years the library served the children of the community from its small temporary premises.
Activity programmes began with a Children’s Festival in the International Year of the Child, 1979. This featured an exhibition of children’s art, poetry and self-made toys; talent night of drama, music and dance; and children’s book fair. The Centre also celebrated the International Year of the Child by initiating playground development in 1979.
The playground was opened at the original site and the project launched on December 12, 1980 as part of the University of Nigeria’s 20th anniversary celebrations. Governor Jim Nwobodo of Anambra State performed the opening ceremony and donated funds for fencing and grounds development.
In May 1981 Prince Albert Koripamo, a university alumnus, delivered a 15-seater bus and provided a book grant to develop the library. Vacation activities, a prominent feature of the Children’s Centre program over the years, began in 1981 with a series of excursions.
At the same time, Chief E. C. Iwuanyanwu offered to build the permanent facility. During the University’s Silver Jubilee celebrations in 1986, Chief Iwuanyanwu handed the completed building over to the University as part of the alumni’s contribution to the endowment fund.
Early in 1987 the library and vacation activities moved to this new and spacious facility. The building was named in loving memory of Madam Hulder Iwuanyanwu, the mother of the donor, at a ceremony held in January 1992.
Meanwhile, a mutually beneficial relationship had been developing between the Children’s Centre Library and the young Department of Library Science (now Library and Information Science). In 1988 this relationship was formalized, whereby the library serves as teaching laboratory and research resource for the department while the department provides professional and administrative assistance.
Expanded facilities and resources made it possible to extend services beyond the immediate university community. on from 1988. In cooperation with the Department, the Children’s Centre began reading promotion activities, such as story hour and book sharing, in primary and secondary schools.
It also began reaching out to the local Motherless Babies Home with regular visits, donations, and provision of additional staff. In 2000 the Centre initiated library service to the local prison. Most recently it introduced Psycho-Educational Testing Services for children and youth with special needs.
SILVER JUBILEE CELEBRATION
The Children’s Centre celebrated its 25th Anniversary on May 12-13, 2004. The anniversary began on May 12th with an afternoon of entertainment by the children from the Children’s Centre and nearby primary schools. In the evening the founding mothers and other old friends of the Centre were honored at a Founders’ Day dinner. Certificates were awarded to thirty women for their outstanding roles in developing the Children’s Centre. Seven friends and three long-serving staff were also honored on the occasion. (See Founders.)
The Silver Jubilee Celebration on May 13th was attended by numerous friends of the Children’s Centre, including Chief (Dr.) E. C. Iwuanyanwu and his wife, Lady Eudora Iwuanyanwu, and the Chairman of the occasion, Prof. Ebele Maduewesi, Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Educational Research Development Council and former President of UWA and Chair of the Children’s Centre Committee, among many others.
The fifteen years since our 25th have brought many notable events and developments.
Vacation Programs have continued to feature on the Children’s Centre calendar during August-September and occasionally during the Easter holidays. These have been organized by committee members with strong assistance from former beneficiaries of Children’s Centre programs like Goodhead Uchendu, Ayo Ekun and other Youth Corpers, Harry Uzodinma and other members of our partner student organization AIESEC, and visiting professor Obiajulu Emejulu.
Among the favorite activities continue to be excursions (to the zoo, space center, Enugu airport, National War Museum at Umuahia); computer training; arts and crafts (such as bead making, crocheting, poster making, tie-and-dye and batik textile techniques, cardmaking, hat making, cooking and baking).
Others are performing arts (such as dance, singing, and drama); creative writing and literacy development; debates; talks (on such subjects as leadership, map reading, HIV/AIDS, safety, and personal hygiene); and sports.
Special events are often organized around occasions like Children’s Day, Nigerian Independence, Christmas, and World Book Day. (See Programs) Most recently, in 2017 our Patron, Pharm. Chinelo Ozumba organized a talk featuring inspirational videos on Growing Up Responsibly, presented by Prof. Agwu Ekwe Agwu to all students of the University of Nigeria Secondary School.
Football has been another major development of recent years, beginning with Vice-Chancellor Nebo’s sponsorship of the Nebo and Azikiwe teams in 2007. Ngozi Osadebe played a major role in creating the Children’s Centre Cubs, which linked playing football to reading in a football-reading club.
Mirror the Master Art Competition
A national children’s art competition organized by former staff child Chima Ezeilo of Kambani Arts, took place in 2009-2010. Children’s Centre helped arrange the Nsukka competition of 14 schools participating, most of them part of our outreach. John Cross Omeke of Model School II, Nsukka (center) won first prize in the national competition.
Outreach to Schools
Provision of library and information services to selected primary schools in the Nsukka area has been an area of emphasis. From early reading promotion activities, the Centre began exploring the use of local community resources to develop information literacy (See Dike and Amucheazi in Publications).
From this evolved efforts to develop primary school libraries (assisted by book donations from PULA). This culminated in a Best School Library Competition held in Nsukka Local Government Area in 2012-13.
Concern that these libraries be used effectively led to cataloging and library use workshops and development of a curriculum teaching library and information literacy skills through library periods. (See Ngwuchukwu and Onyebuchi in Publications).
Outreach to Prison Libraries
Children’s Centre has continued support for the Nsukka prison library it initiated in 2000, through donations of books and infrastructural renovation and organizational assistance. From 2005 these efforts spread to Anambra State, with the founding of the Awka prison library. This has led to research into the information needs and library use of inmates in the two prisons. (See Publications by Dike and Ngwuchukwu).
Children’s Centre has cooperated with the Libraries for Literacy Foundation & Department of Library and Information Science in mounting workshops on developing creative and information skills through comic book writing. This is an ongoing program at Nsukka; in October 2017 a trainers’ workshop was held in Awka as prelude to introducing these skills in the 4 prisons of Anambra State.