Can a story about superheroes and alien monsters help to overcome ethnic divisions? That's what Kenya Human Rights Commission hopes. After a survey showed that six out of 10 children feel pressured by their parents to discriminate against other ethnic groups, the KHRC developed a storybook for kids aged 9-16 called Attack of the Shidas: AKAs Save Planet Earth — in which tolerance is a superpower.
"Attack of the Shidas:AKAs Save the Planet" is the story of three communities who live in a desert town which depends on a lone borehole for all their water. But the people are threatened when they discover that the water is mysteriously being emptied at night. Three children in the town discover they have special powers as only they, can see and hear the invisible water thieves that bring with them numerous other problems to the three communities. Yet nobody believes what the children have to say, because these three children possess special powers of equality and tolerance that enable them to see what others in their communities cannot see. Can the children stop the aliens before war breaks out in the town?
"Attack of the Shidas:AKAs Save the Planet" is among the first to venture into the genre of science fiction to address the very delicate and contentious issue of discrimination by providing simple and practical messages to children in an entertaining manner. The storybook has been pre-tested among pupils and students of 5 primary and one secondary school as well as 15 teachers drawn from Siaya, Kitale, Marigat, Kwale, Wajir and Nairobi (Kawangware, Kibera, Musa Gitau, Mathare and Lavington).
It's interesting to see how these archetypes (superpowers, alien monsters) are used in different cultures — and it'll be interesting to see if there's more evidence that a story like this actually can help to reduce tensions between different ethnic groups.