Ubongo Kids is a Tanzanian edu-cartoon series, designed to help children "discover the joys of math and science through fun, local stories and songs". Produced by Ubongo, a social enterprise based in Tanzania, the show premiered in January 2014 on national television and can also be viewed online. In partnership with Edume, Ubongo has released a mobile learning platform so that viewers can continue to learn throughout the week, answering questions via SMS and winning callbacks and songs from their favourite cartoon characters. It broadcasts on national network TV in Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda (coming soon), and Rwanda (coming soon), as well as digital TV in 27 countries in Africa.

Communication Strategies: 

Designed for children at pre-school level, Ubongo Kids follows Tanzanian cartoon kids Kibena, Kiduchu, and Koba as they use their minds and math skills to solve problems in their village, with the help of their talking and singing animal friends: Mama Ndege (a math whiz bird), Uncle T (a rapping giraffe), and Da Chura (a frog who explains important vocabulary).

Each episode uses stories to help students understand a basic math concept. The producers seek to help students understand the underlying concept through the story, rather than just memorising the methodology. Catchy songs and colourful imagery are also meant to help the learning process. Students can interact with the television show with basic mobiles, answering multiple-choice math questions posed during the show via SMS and scoring points to win prizes. They also get feedback and encouraging messages from the cartoon characters. Interaction is also made possible through the Ubongo Facebook page.

Ubongo Kids also seeks to teach digital literacy, even to kids who don't have computers. The episodes showcase strong girl characters in key roles, using their brains to solve digital dilemmas. As an introduction to code (and computational thinking) the Ubongo Kids characters learn to communicate with ants by using leaves. They figure out the meanings of different leaves in the ant code, then create (and debug) leaf algorithms to lead the ants away from the village food supply. They even use code to create a dance. In the internet episode, they learn about the internet through the metaphor of a spider's web and get some first-hand experience when they accidentally reshare a message through online channels and the forest animals' own offline communication network. As a handy reminder, the music video "Know the Source" reminds kids through a catchy tune that for information, be it digital or not, they should check whom it came from and why they shared it.

For the online versions, the producers break down the episodes and put shorter stories online as webisodes. These can be viewed on YouTube and on the Ubongo Kids website.

Ubongo Kids currently broadcasts in Tanzania on TBC (Monday through Thursday at 2:30pm, Friday at 3pm, and Saturday and Sunday at 9am), in Kenya on Citizen (Saturday at 9am) and NTV (Saturday at 10am), and on digital TV in 27 countries in Africa.

Development Issues: 

Children, Education

Key Points: 

Ubongo is a Tanzanian, women-led social enterprise that creates localised edutainment for learners in Africa. "Ubongo" means brain in Kiswahili, and the organisation works to find fun ways to stimulate children and the young at heart to use their brains.

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Source: 

Kickstarter website, Ubongo Kids website, and Ubongo website - all accessed on August 8 2014; email from Sylvia Cadena to Liane Cerminara on November 20 2017 (sent to The Communication Initiative on November 21 2017); and Ubongo website, November 21 2017.