Award for world's best educational pre-school media in 2008 goes to Ethiopia
'Tsehai Loves Learning' is a popular educational children's media project in the local Ethiopian language of Amharic. This UNESCO-sponsored programme won the top prize in the pre-school category at the Japan Prize 2008 International Contest for Educational Media. Beyond the international recognition associated with this award, the prize includes an ornate trophy and $3,000 USD.
The Japan Prize was established in 1965 by the national Japanese broadcaster NHK. The annual festival honours the top educational programmes worldwide. 'Tsehai Loves Learning' topped 30 other programmes which were entered into the category from around the globe. The Ethiopian show creators were able to attend the festival thanks to the UNESCO Office in Addis Ababa.
"UNESCO was the first organization to believe in our project and continues to be our most consistent partner. They are helping to build the capacity of this project through trainings and networking opportunities like this one," said project co-founder Bruktawit Tigabu. "We made many connections with children's television producers and broadcasters throughout the world. We're hopeful that this prize and the connections made will lead to something which will really stabilise the 'Tsehai Loves Learning' project", said Shane Etzenhouser, another co-founder of the project.
"We were competing against educational television programmes, web sites, games and interactive toys from places like Germany, Sweden, Canada, the United States and Japan. Most of these programmes have budgets that are at least 10 to 20 times higher than ours, so we were just happy to be accepted to this contest. It's such a thrill to win," said Bruktawit.
The winning episode of 'Tsehai Loves Learning' centred on understanding love. "In this episode our main character Tsehai, a six-year old giraffe, learns all about love: how it feels, and what it means, all through the care of her pet butterfly," said Bruktawit. The episode also employs phonetic methods to help children learn the Amharic letter 'Seh'.
This is the second major international award won by 'Tsehai Loves Learning' in 2008. Whiz Kids Workshop, the creators of 'Tsehai Loves Learning', also won the Next Generation Prize at the Prix Jeunesse International 2008 Festival, in Munich, Germany, last May. The awarded episode 'Tsinat' was about the care for children orphaned by HIV/AIDS. According to Shane Etzenhouser, "The Prix Jeunesse prize recognized 'Tsehai Loves Learning' for its social impact as well as the quality of the production relative to its low budget." "Japan Prize focuses on the educational value of the content, so 'Tsehai' has now been recognized internationally for quality, social impact and educational value.
"It's very hard to make this show and even harder to get it out to the children of Ethiopia. Sometimes we get very discouraged. It's really wonderful to win a prize like this; it encourages us to keep trying and hopefully makes it a little easier to win international support for our efforts," stated Etzenhouser.
Whiz Kids Workshop is an Ethiopian production company that focuses on serving children through educational media.