Ethiopian children’s TV show receives honor

June 12, 2008
Bruktawit Tigabu and Shane Etzenhouser of Ethiopia have received an award from Prix Jeunesse International to help develop “Tsehai Loves Learning,” their children’s TV program.

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia — “Tsehai Loves Learning," an Amharic-language educational television show that is produced and broadcast in Ethiopia, received an award at the Prix Jeunesse International 2008, the premiere festival recognizing outstanding children's television programming. The event is held every two years in Munich, Germany; the award was presented on 4 June.

The program is the brainchild of Bruktawit Tigabu and Shane Etzenhouser of Addis Ababa, a married couple who are both Baha’is. The show -- designed for preschool children and featuring a hand puppet named Tsehai who is a giraffe -- is styled after classic children’s programs such as “Sesame Street.”

The show won the Prix Jeunesse Next Generation Prize for an entry that is “inspirational, innovative, and inspired by a great idea” but that was produced “under difficult circumstances.”

The prize brings a monetary award of 6,000 euros and a year of mentoring from the sponsors, which include the Australian Children's Television Foundation, the BBC, Disney Germany, KRO (Dutch Public Broadcasting), Nickelodeon International, and ZDF (German Television Network).

"Winning an award at the Prix Jeunesse is considered the highest honor in children's media," Ms. Tigabu said.

"For many of Ethiopia's children, the show is the closest thing to early childhood education they have ever received," Mr. Etzenhouser noted.

“The Baha'i writings have been a major inspiration for us,” he continued. “The writings on the education of children and on service were what inspired us to make this program. We also relied heavily on Baha'i prayers and writings to uplift us whenever we’ve run into difficulties with the show or whenever we've gotten discouraged. … We don't have a background in television, so the tasks and responsibility inherent in what we are trying to do are enormous.”

In a statement about the award to “Tsehai Loves Learning,” Prix Jeunesse said: "The jury was hugely impressed by the program's ability to talk to children, to be creative as well as communicative, on an extremely limited budget. … We all felt that 'Tsehai Loves Learning' was inspired by a great idea born out of the needs of its audience – which after all is the basis of all great TV.”

"Tsehai Loves Learning" went on the air in September 2006 with new 10-minute episodes debuting every two weeks for repeated broadcasting. The show is currently on hiatus.