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Math-Based Adventures Animate Innovative African TV Show


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Image: Dina Fine Maron

DAR ES SALAAM, TANZANIA–Watch out Dora, this winter Tanzania expects to launch its own educational cartoon television show. Purported to be the first animated series to teach math in East Africa and the first cartoon for kids in the country, its aim is to boost children’s math skills.

The show, entitled “Bunga Bongo,” traces the adventures of three kids who come up against problems in their community that can only be solved via… you guessed it—mathematics.  “This will not teach kids everything they need to know, but it will help them get the basics,” says Nisha Ligon, show co-founder and managing director of UBONGO, a group based here that makes educational content for African youth. Low national test scores in mathematics, says Ligon, was a major driving factor to make this show. Eventually, the team hopes that its program, which will air in Swahili, will also reach neighboring countries.

Check out a snippet of the show here where you can sing along about the joys of math…if you know Swahili:

Texting in

Bunga Bongo is also designed to draw upon kids’ texting skills; it will ask them to solve math questions, and then, with parental consent, text in the answers. The program creators are also considering ways viewers could send in answers for free, such as allowing kids to subscribe to the service and then just click a free link on their phone to answer questions. The target audience for the program is tweens from 7 to 13 years old.

To encourage kids to participate, the team plans to offer up prizes. But both the yet-to-be-determined prizes and the show are still looking for long-term funding. Right now, the show’s creators are paying for the program out of their own pockets. They have committed to producing 12 segments that will premiere in February on TBC (Tanzania Broadcasting Corporation–the public broadcaster).

Currently, there are no home-grown cartoons in Tanzania. Yet a popular French cartoon based on West African folklore and dubbed into Swahili—available solely via pirated DVDs—shows that there’s a market for cartoons, says Ligon. Bunga Bongo will also provide English cameos via a frog character that will ribbit out English vocabulary during the show.

Technology hitches

Since only a small fraction of the Tanzanian population is estimated to have televisions, the Bunga Bongo creators also plan to later offer a radio program to ensure they are reaching a wider audience. About half the population of Tanzania is under the age of 18, and more than 55 percent of the population has access to a mobile phone, so the creative team hopes their efforts will reach a healthy fraction of the intended audience.

I’ll leave you with this sampling of the show that teaches kids about place values in everyday life:

Learn more about the show here.

See how Tanzanian children’s test scores stack up against those of their neighbors here.

Dina Fine Maron reported this story in Tanzania as a fellow with the International Reporting Project (IRP).

About the Author: Dina Fine Maron is the associate editor for health and medicine at Scientific American. Follow on Twitter @Dina_Maron.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.





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  1. 1. latifamars 5:41 pm 10/1/2013

    Really great initiative, I wish you guys all the best. I probably would’ve loved Maths had it been on tv when I was a kid

    Link to this

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