Chess is one of the world’s most popular board games, but it’s more than just a fun way to pass the time for many children living in African nations.
In the last decade, chess has become increasingly popular across 46 countries in Africa. Six players from Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria, Zambia, and South Africa have achieved the title of Grandmaster since 2014. That’s the highest possible title in the game!
In Nigeria, chess master Tunde Onakoya started a foundation called Chess in Slums Africa to bring the game to kids living in low-income communities. This non-profit teaches chess to kids who don’t have access to formal education in hopes of getting them scholarships and other opportunities they might never have get without the game.
Tunde often shares stories of children whose lives have been changed for the better since they started playing the game, and the social media attention has brought in donations to help children.
“I realized that every time I shared the stories of one of our kids on Facebook or Twitter, people were willing to donate money to fund their education,” he explained. “So, through that medium about 12 children got scholarships.”
Day 4&5:— Tunde Onakoya (@Tunde_OD) April 29, 2021
Today we discovered a boy with Spastic cerebral palsy being mocked by his peers, we brought him into our training center and introduced him to Chess.
Few minutes into learning board arrangement and pawn movements, he outperformed everyone in his class. pic.twitter.com/Nby8CrWeF5
In addition to scholarships, chess offers travel opportunities and other chances to break the cycle of generational poverty that afflicts most kids in Nigeria. According to their GoFundMe:
“Youth education in Nigeria is in crisis. Of every 5 impoverished children in the world, 1 comes from Nigeria. 30% of them are illiterate. 80% of them never reach their academic potential. The majority of these children will never obtain good paying jobs, and the cycle of poverty will repeat itself. Finding a way to empower children to reach their potential is the only way to break this cycle. Chess in Slums uses the game of chess as a framework to teach academic skills, critical thinking and a lifelong appreciation for learning to these children.”
Most developed nations like the United States, China, and India have programs that routinely produce world champions. Tunde and others are trying to level the playing field and give African children the same chances at success!
“My greatest desire for the Chess in Slums project is to create a future where children from impoverished communities aren’t just defined by their community,” said Tunde, adding he wants to “help them discover their truest potential.”
It’s so beautiful seeing something as simple as a board game opening doors for people all over the world. We hope the donations pour into Tunde’s organization so more kids can lead fuller, healthier lives in the future.
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