(UNESCO) ‘Tsehai Loves Learning,’ an Ethiopian children’s television show sponsored by UNESCO, was honoured with an award at the Prix Jeunesse International 2008 Festival. The 2008 Next Generation Prize was bestowed upon the creators of the show, Whiz Kids Workshop, a local production company that focuses on serving Ethiopia through educational media.
Prix Jeunesse is the premier international festival recognising outstanding children’s television programming. It is held every two years in Munich. “Winning an award at the Prix Jeunesse is considered the highest honour in children’s media,” said Bruktawit Tigabu, the show’s co-founder.
UNESCO has been working with Whiz Kids Workshop since 2005 when they collaborated on developing educational children programmes addressing environmental issues. Currently, with the financial support of UNESCO’s International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC), UNESCO and Whiz Kids Workshop are training young people across Ethiopia to create animated content in local languages addressing development challenges.
According to Prix Jeunesse, the Next Generation Prize is awarded to “a production team that is innovative and inspired by a great idea that was produced under difficult circumstances.” The intention of the award is to promote talent that – with financial support, mentoring and consultation – promises to come up with great results in the future. As a result of the award, Whiz Kids Workshop will have an opportunity to work with the prize’s sponsors who will provide assistance with development, technical and creative advice throughout production of their next project.
‘Tsehai Loves Learning’ is an Amharic language educational show which is immensely popular among Ethiopian children. It began broadcasting on Ethiopian Television in September 2006. “For many of Ethiopia’s children, it is the closest thing to early childhood education they have ever received,” Shane Etzenhouser, the show’s other co-founder, said. ‘Tsehai Loves Learning’ aims to promote children’s development – academically, socially, and physically. The prize winning ‘Tsinat’ was one of the most popular episodes. ‘Tsinat’ is unique in that it teaches children how to help their friends cope with the death of a parent. The episode also included messages for adults on how to support orphans and children impacted by HIV and AIDS.
“The jury was hugely impressed by the programme’s ability to talk to children, to be creative as well as communicative, on an extremely limited budget,” said Prix Jeunesse in a statement. “Finally, we all felt that ‘Tsehai Loves Learning’ was inspired by a great idea born out of the needs of its audience – which after all is the basis of all great TV. The jury is delighted to extend this prize to Whiz Kids Workshop and to assist the team as they consider their next project.”
Shane Etzenhouser and programme manager, Redeit Alemu, attended the festival with the support of UNESCO and the Goethe Institute. “We were ecstatic to even be a finalist for these awards,” said Etzenhouser. “We are thrilled to prove that Africa can successfully provide high calibre, research-based, culturally relevant educational material for children with limited resources. It’s a proud moment for all of Ethiopia and for Africa,” said Alemu.