Tanzania edutainment scheme transforms African education

IMG_20170515_094347_539DARESALAAM, (CAJ News) – MATHSMATICS has been associated with the words “geeky and sophisticated” rather than “creative and artistic.”
Stereotypically, teachers often do not inspire their students through promoting memorization.
Some students feel like maths is a foreign language in which they cannot orient themselves.
When students fail to progress in a maths class, they tend to feel stupid and avoid math as much as possible in the future.
Many people do not believe this study is essential to modern life.
It is one study detested by current and erstwhile students.
Now, thanks to a Tanzania social enterprise, perceptions among students around maths are changing.
Ubongo Kids, an interactive educational cartoon show that combines mathematical concepts with fun animated and catchy songs, is behind the revolution.
The production seeks to leverage accessibly technology and media to help over 30 million children in Africa realize their potential.
The innovation seeks to leverage accessibly technology and media to help the minors realise their potential, by bringing them engaging and localized educational content for pre-primary and primary science,
technology, engineering, maths, character development and more.
“There is an education crisis hindering opportunities for the 440 million under 15s in Sub-Saharan Africa,” said Doreen Kessy (28), Chief Operations Officer of Ubongo Kids.
She pointed out according to the Africa America Institute, eight out of ten countries with lowest pre-primary enrollment are in Sub-Saharan Africa.
The State of Education in Africa Report 2015 also raises concerns over severe shortages of trained teachers.
In Tanzania, the rate of teacher absenteeism is 53 percent, according to a World Bank report in 2015.
There is an estimated shortage of 15 million teachers in the continent.
Concerned with such statistics, Kessy decided to fill the gap through Ubongo Kids.
“It is evident although there are plenty of content and educational resources all around the world and the internet, it is not reaching kids in Africa. Ubongo started in efforts to fill in the gap created by a broken educational system in Tanzania, in which we wanted to deliver top quality edutainment content that is fun, localized and interactive to kids through whatever technologies they have,” said Kessy.
“We aim to increase our user base to 15 million households weekly by 2018,” said Kessy.
Statistics indicate preschoolers in Tanzania who watch Ubongo Kids animated series, Akili and Me, improve or outperform their peers by 24 percent in counting, 13 percent in English language and 9 percent in motor skills.
Primary school students watching Ubongo Kids show significant direct learning outcomes, as well as increased interest and confidence in maths.
“We are able to achieve these results at extremely low cost per child.
The programme currently reaches 5,1 million families weekly.

As it scales new platforms and geographies, Ubongo Kids aims to broaden its interactive product development process to include user testing and feedback across markets.
“We are committed to continual learning and as we scale, we will also strive to make each episode and product more entertaining and educationally effective than the last,” Kessy said.
“Our plan is to focus on creating high-quality, engaging content that builds a large and loyal fan base, drives broadcast partnerships and funding opportunities to achieve the mission.”
Originally started in Tanzania, the project has since expanded to Burundi Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda with broadcasts in English, French and Kiswahili.
It will soon be launching in South Africa and Ghana.
Ethiopia, Nigeria Zambia and Zimbabwe are considered.
“As our brand continues to grow, we want to continue launching out our business-to-consumer products such as apps, which we will monetize through subscription fees from parents,” said Kessy.
‘Our iterative, user-centric content development process ensures that our edutainment is both engaging and effective for its intended audience. We are committed to continually and rigorously measuring impact, and using learning from our evaluation to further improve our products and services for kids in Africa,” noted Kessy.
She however bemoaned funding challenges impacting on expansion.
“Animation is expensive,” said Kessy.
“Although we have managed to find ways to be more cost effective, we still need funding to scale the organization across a variety of areas, including content, operations, marketing and product development,” she added.
Kessy will be among delegates at the World Economic Forum in Africa in Durban, South Africa.
“I will be looking out for new economic, technological, entrepreneurial and social trends,” she said.
CAJ News

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