As children across Africa remain out of school due to COVID-19, they are turning to and tuning into Ubongo, an edutainment nonprofit that produces localized, engaging, interactive video content for children across Africa. Through the mixture of animation and live action video, music, audio drama and print materials, Ubongo’s free content is reaching 17 million households on broadcast and online platforms in 40 countries with the goal of reaching 440 million kids in Africa.
Immediately after COVID-19 hit Africa, Ubongo opened up their library of TV and radio edutainment content, as well as public service announcements and educational videos to support health and hygiene, for free to any broadcasters and partners who were able to share the content with communities in need.
Ubongo’s programs significantly improves school readiness and learning outcomes for kids, and also promotes social and behavioral change for kids, caregivers and educators. The innovative multimedia platform centers on two impactful edutainment shows, Akili and Me (for children 6 and under) and Ubongo Kids (for children ages 7-14).
One father from Tanzania frames its importance during this time, “Four days ago, I visited a relative in the village, and their 2-year-old was in the house. I showed them a video of Akili washing her hands. Beyond being excited about the video, I saw that she learned something; and soon after she told her mum to wash her hands to get rid of the germs. I was shocked, I saw first-hand how Akili’s videos not only educate kids, but also entertain them. Thank you so much Ubongo Kids!”
Messages like these continue to help families keep up their learning and well-being at home, share critical health messages and support pertaining to COVID 19, all while supporting partnerships across their ecosystem.
Akili and Me helps the Littlest Learners improve their letters, numbers, art, reading and music, while Ubongo Kids mirrors the curiosity of Growing Learners, using math, science, and tech skills to solve challenges that come their way.
Families benefit from a more involved education model: Kids tune in to watch, enjoy, actively engage and have fun while learning, as parents and caregivers encourage their kids to watch and join in the learning experience.
"Most of the time when we are with them, we take part step by step from beginning to end," commented one mother from Nzega, Tabora, Tanzania.
Beyond the innovative content, the key to Ubongo’s success is reaching millions of families across Africa through accessible technologies like TV, radio and mobile phones. To make the content more accessible, the cartoons are created and distributed in English, French, Kiswahili, Kinyarwanda, Kikuyu and Luo. Program outcomes indicate that Ubongo is improving school readiness for kids under 6 in numeracy, literacy, social emotional skills, as well as health and nutrition. For example, kids who watch Akili and Me outperform their peers by 24% in counting.
With two effective programs that are demonstrably improving outcomes for learners, Ubongo continues to scale its reach and impact to deliver its edutainment to more audiences across the continent. Ubongo helped to transform learning and confidence in kids, one episode at a time."As he watches the show, he gets confidence at school and at home. Akili and Me has really succeeded" said a father from Muleba, Kagera.
Almost 90% of edtech learners in Africa are now using Ubongo resources, making it now the largest classroom, helping students learn and thrive – and doing it all at no cost to children and their families. With the end of the pandemic nowhere near in sight, Ubongo will continue to play a critical role during this time and beyond, helping kids learn, stay engaged, and dream of their brighter futures.