In Africa, TV programs teaching science to children are on the rise due to COVID

COVID-19 lockdowns are putting the brakes on children’s learning across Africa and around the world. It also revolutionized children’s TV programming produced in Africa.

With schools closed, creators who use the media to educate young people on subjects like sexual health and gender equality have pivoted to television. Her one of those shows, N*GEN, uses entertainment to educate kids about science.

Tanzania-based Peripheral Vision International (PVI) Executive Creative Director Gosia Alkomuska and Kenyan biochemist, molecular biologist and educator Dr. I created the show N*GEN, which challenges gender norms by profiling. female scientist.

“When I was young, science was the subject of the ‘smart’ man,” said Kianno, known as Dr. Joy. “In East Africa, if you go into science, you become a doctor or a dentist. Physics is about memorizing terms and is dense. I wanted to create a kind of entertainment.”

When Season 1 began filming, Dr. Joy and Lukomska were working on an episode about skeletons, bones, and fossils. Fossils are not part of the Kenyan curriculum.

“Our crew met with a paleontologist and was shown images of a young Turkana boy,” said Dr. Joy, referring to one of the most important discoveries in paleontological history, some 1.6 million years old. mentioned the nearly complete skeleton of a young man who lived in Found in Kenya.

“I also didn’t know that the National Museum of Kenya holds one of the largest collections of fossils in the world. , our show was talking about his greatest find. Became a fossil geek!”

Television dominates much of Africa.

With families across Africa stuck at home and unable to afford Wi-Fi, let alone a computer for their children to attend virtual classes, TV was looming large.

Free terrestrial television, also known as ‘over the air’ or ‘broadcast’ television, is the fastest growing legacy media across Africa. According to Paul Falzone, executive director of his PVI, which produces N*GEN, television transmitted to simple antennas is on pace to challenge radio in most of the continent.

Falzone believes that affordable off-grid solar power will make electricity affordable for low-income households. Falzone said that once electricity becomes available and affordable, televisions will be one of the first purchases low-income households make, after LED lights, phone chargers and fans.

Since 2014, PVI, an American non-governmental organization with a creative team in East Africa, has used media, technology and popular culture to foster social change for out-of-reach and vulnerable youth. rice field.

To spur youth interest in politics and other news, one of the early programs, News Beat, featured rappers recounting Ugandan national news in rhymes and poems. The program aired from 2014 to 2018 on NTV, Uganda’s largest private television broadcaster. An audio-only version that was broadcast on radio stations nationwide.

In contrast to the practice in the Global North, the African TV business model requires creators to pay terrestrial broadcasters for airtime.

COVID has provided a great opportunity to deliver learning through television.

Ato Mika, managing principal of Ghana-based market research firm Maverick Research, explained that a wave of TV and radio deregulation across Africa has contributed to the explosive growth in TV viewership. . Anyone with an antenna on their TV can connect to their local broadcast.

But free-to-air TV has yet to find a way to monetize, Mika said. “Legacy stations are paid,” he said. “When you produce a program, you pay the broadcasting station to air it.”

Broadcasters across Africa are airing cheap telenovelas and other cheap programming as advertisers focus on paying providers’ more affluent audiences. “Paid providers like Netflix, Disney and Nickelodeon are only available to his 10% of the population,” said Jesse Soleil, president and co-founder of Akili Network. “And it’s the same content across their network. Free TV is essential to reach people who can’t afford paid platforms.”

Soleil said children and their parents were suddenly confined to their homes when COVID-19 broke out. “It was a great opportunity to get an audience for a very good children’s educational entertainment show,” he said. In March 2020, Akili Network launched Akili Kids!, an African children’s television network. Akiri Kids! Broadcast N*GEN etc. in Kenya.

With lockdowns keeping children out of school, Falzone and the PVI team also turned to television as an opportunity to provide learning in a fun format.

“We reached out to teachers and asked what they could do,” says Falzone. “Misinformation and mistrust of science were rife. We wanted to improve science and give people the tools to think critically. And we wanted to elevate women and girls, N*GEN was conceived in April and began airing in late August 2020.

Transforming learning for a rapidly growing population

Currently airing on 45 primarily terrestrial stations, N*GEN is in development for season 3. Season 1 was produced using PVI’s own resources. Liked what they saw, Season 2 was funded by the US State Department.

PVI is part of a small but growing community producing socially beneficial television programs for children and young people in Africa.

Ubongo, a non-profit organization based in Tanzania, is one of Africa’s leading educational entertainment media production companies. According to Falzone, Ubongo pioneered the practice of providing broadcasters with high-quality children’s programming for free, and is backed by donors to produce the shows. PVI, Ubongo and others are transforming children’s programming for the better with a pan-Africa focus.

Micah is confident that advertisers will take notice. “Quality children’s TV content will build trust with parents and attract advertisers,” he said.

“Parents like myself are looking for programs that are good for their children. Consumers are more likely to trust the brand being advertised, viewers are better able to remember the brand, making it easier for advertisers to make their case.”

UNICEF estimates that by 2050, one in two Africans will be under the age of 25. This continent will be home to 1 billion children and adolescents. Like the Global North’s ‘Sesame Street’ for generations of young people, organizations like PVI, Ubongo and Akiri Network have the potential to transform learning for this rapidly growing youth.

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