Creative writing workshop: Inspiring Africa’s change makers to tell stories

With the Covid-19 pandemic that has led to closure of schools, Elma Shaw viewed this as an opportunity to give extra attention to writing skills.

With a background in communications and education, she used her skills to design a creative writing workshop to give students an outlet for creativity, and, help build skills that will enable future success in school and beyond.


As a writer and publisher, Shaw believes creative writing helps young students use their imagination, practice their literacy skills and gain confidence in their self-expression. 


“Unfortunately, most curriculums do not allocate enough time to it—especially beyond the primary grades,” she says.


But with this platform, she wants her students to understand and experience this power of imagination. She also hopes to inspire Africa’s change makers to become authors because she believes they have inspiring stories and valuable knowledge to share.

What sparked the need for this initiative was her experience as a teacher and vice principal for English language arts at Green Hills, where she used to teach creative writing as an extracurricular activity. She says she recalls her students loving it. 

“Writing from the imagination is fun for those who choose to do so, and students learn valuable academic and life skills along the way.”

The workshop to begin mid-June is set to run for eight weeks and will be offered to children joining upper primary (Grades 4-5) and students joining middle school (Grades 6-8).  Each group will meet once a week.

“Lessons will be held by video conference once a week, beginning in mid-June. Although we’ll be on screen, class size is limited so that we can build meaningful connections and be able to share our work with each other. We’ll be using prompts, lessons, topical issues, published texts, and even other forms of art, like music and dance as inspiration,” Shaw explains.

Public lauds the initiative 

As a parent, Ngozi Odawayi Ogbonnaya commends the initiative, saying that creative writing gives students the opportunity to express themselves effectively, thereby improving their communication abilities.

“As a parent, I will allow my children to participate in the creative writing class because research shows that reading helps develop your writing skills but writing helps develop your cognitive growth,” she says.

Ogbonnaya, the founder of Bookie Book Bop Club, a platform that aims to facilitate the growth of a reading culture in African societies, points out that imagination is the power of creativity, and that creative writing encourages students to express their thoughts either original or from books they have read. 

“Creativity helps kids to think of so many other ways of solving a problem. It allows students to think out of the box. That is why in Bookie Book Bop club, students read as well as do story writing, and with this, students have the option to illustrate with drawings or write their thought in words.”

Bertin Ganza Kanamugire, the founder of Afflatus Africa, an organisation with a mission of unveiling African youths’ potential through inclusive and dynamic co-learning environments, says such a platform is relevant when it comes to boosting students’ confidence. 

He notes that through writing, students are also instigated with a reading culture. 

“When you write you are pressed to read because you need to be informed, this also helps to improve vocabulary and communication skills. With this, students are given a platform to express themselves, their thoughts and emotions in different ways, it could be writing poems or short stories,” Kanamugire says. 

Writing as a lucrative career

Kanamugire adds that training children to write boosts their innovation and at some point, writing as a career can be their source of income.

Good, effective writing is at the heart of every successful enterprise, every excellent television show or film, and every winning argument. There will always be high demand for writers who can entertain, inspire, or persuade audiences and clients with words, Shaw says.

As a creator and facilitator of this creative writing workshop, Shaw hopes to make it a success and ensure that it achieves its main objective.

“The success of this initiative depends on my ability to make it accessible, engaging and worthwhile. I have been a writer all my life, and I know what it takes to encourage young learners and bring out the best in them,” she says.

At the end of this initiative, she plans to publish some of the students’ work in digital and print formats. 

Her long-term vision is to continue offering more writing programmes and other kinds of language arts assistance to students in person and online. 

“With the reach of the internet, we would love to partner with others to extend these opportunities to young people in other African countries.”

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