For many children around the world, maths is either a distant friend or a total foe. For such children, the sums are almost never right and so they lose hope and interest.
But in Tanzania, a group of young achievers have taken the initiative to buck the trend and make maths a fun thing for school children. The Ubongo team imagined that this goal was achievable and so they threw in everything to create this future for African children.
Founded in July 2013, the social enterprise, Ubongo Media, creates fun animated educational content tailored to African learners. The idea came from a desire to bring fun, interactive, e-learning-like products to kids in Africa on accessible technologies.
The team launched its first cartoon series officially in January 2014. Ubongo Kids, the flagship program is broadcast on national TV in Tanzania and has attracted about 1.5 million viewers, mainly comprised of children aged 7-13, and interested parents. Viewers can interact live via SMS as they watch and sing along, answering multi choice questions and getting prompt feedback from their favourite cartoon characters.
Who ever thought maths could be so entertaining?
In the words of Doreen Kessy, the Chief Operating Officer (COO) at Ubongo
“Ubongo aims to make learning fun again! When I went to school, it was so rigid and there was no fun in it. Ubongo wants to change this. We want to make learning fun and we want lessons to be relevant to kids. Currently 24 percent of Tanzanian parents watch Ubongo Kids with their children and other family members. These parents tell us how Ubongo Kids has transformed learning from a difficult, rigid, and serious activity to something entertaining and relatable.”
Beyond the Shores…
Ubongo Media envisions huge potential for its products across the continent. They hope to expand to different parts of the continent and also develop other educational products for children. With every move, the dream appears bigger, brighter and achievable.
“We have plans to expand into Kenya next, and hope to take Ubongo into Ghana and Nigeria in the medium to long term. We are also testing a new program call EduMe which adds an interactive dimension to the show by inviting children to sign up to receive questions and answers from their favorite Ubongo Kids character. With the interactive system we are able to reach even more kids due to Tanzania’s large mobile market (currently 88% of the population own a basic mobile phone).” Kessy tells educationinnovations.org
The team has also been able to create the Swahili and English versions of the Ubongo kids, making it available to viewers in East Africa and across the continent and is also developing a new edutainment show targeted at learners aged seven and below, which will focus on teaching English as a second language.
They aim to advance beyond delivering formal curriculum content to communicating important public health and social justice lessons.
Ubongo Media has proved that nothing is as difficult as it seems, not even maths.