Ubongo Kids, an interactive educational cartoon broadcast on national TV in Tanzania, leverages existing technological infrastructure to deliver math and science lessons to millions of viewers. The show, which so far consists of two 13-episode seasons about math and science, targets children between the ages of 7 and 12. Ubongo Kids has versions in both English and Kiswahili.
In order to help students find fun in learning, Ubongo uses original songs and stories and encourages student interaction with the show’s characters through SMS. Students can text in responses to questions posed on the show; after the show has ended, they can request more questions. When the students answer a certain number of questions correctly, they receive a congratulatory call or text from the show’s characters, encouraging them to continue learning.
The program does not cover a comprehensive curriculum as it serves as a supplement to in-class learning. The creators select topics after discussions with teachers and parents. The show focuses on problem topics — those students especially struggle with — and threshold topics — those that are essential to understand for students to move through a curriculum (i.e. the concept of a decimal).
To distribute the program, Ubongo Ltd. develops partnerships with TV stations to get the best time slot to reach the most children. It also works with corporate sponsors and NGOs for certain episodes, such as the UN in an episode that included a public service announcement about human rights.
Click here to see full program profile
CEI approaches in action
In development for Ubongo is a grant-funded project to develop models for self-sustaining educational screening centers in rural villages. A radio program aimed at the bottom quintile is also in pre-production phases.
Ubongo is pursuing a three-pronged scaling approach for future growth:
- Expansion to new countries: In early March 2015, Ubongo Kids English will be launching in Kenya, Rwanda, and Uganda, with the hope of being available across Anglophone Africa by the end of 2015.
- English as a second language: After interviews with parents, Ubongo found that there was a widespread demand from parents for English as a second language lessons, especially for preschool-aged children
- New platforms: Ubongo plans to scale to new platforms, such as ebooks and radio, by the end of the year, while expanding its TV and SMS program, to deliver learning on any device children can access.
Monitoring & Evaluation
Ubongo has three main impact metrics:
1. Number of learners reached
The program reaches between 900,000 and 1,100,000 viewers per week in Tanzania.
2. Direct and indirect learning outcomes after watching Ubongo Kids
Ubongo performed a randomized controlled trial. It selected schools in rural areas and split each in half; half of the students watched Ubongo once a month for six months, and the other half watched a non-educational TV cartoon. All the students were given a math quiz before and after each episode. Those who watched Ubongo saw a six-percent increase in these quizzes, on average, and those who did not saw a two-percent increase, and these differences were statistically significant. Those in the treatment group were also 16 percent more likely to say math is their favorite subject.
3. Level of engagement of parents in children's learning
The creators of Ubongo estimate that there are about 50,000 caregivers and parents who have engaged with the program on Facebook, looking for additional learning content or ways to get more involved in their children's learning.