N*Gen is an initiative bringing science to the small screen, to educate young people across Africa. We got to know them better.
Next Generation–Africa (N*Gen, pronounced “Engine”) is the first science TV show hosted by African teachers and speaking to an African audience.
It brings science alive and relevant to young viewers, making them more inquisitive about the world around them.
The show introduces the audience to a variety of scientific themes that are presented by African specialists, focusing strongly on African women.
N*GEN works as a platform that encourages African children to believe that they can be a driving force for change and sustainable living.
Yes, during a global crisis such as COVID-19 is, N*Gen comes up with this fantastic idea tackling pandemic consequences, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Acknowledging that many children will be homebound and missing out on learning that is already inadequate for the needs of the next generation, N*Gen is empowering youngsters through their initiatives.
Dr. Joy speaks to us on how N*Gen offers a learning platform through dance, and other fun activities, challenges gender stereotypes and fights misinformation as well.
Read on for an amazing story inspiring not only other Africans to do better by their communities, but every one of us.
N*Gen – Where Fun and Learning Merge
“There was a need to continue to keep young people curious about science from the safety of their television sets. The shows were broadcast on free-to-air TV and presented by local teachers, exploring and engaging in science.”, she says, at the beginning of our conversation.
Each episode contains learning bites (mini-lessons) interspersed with fun quizzes, experiments, songs, dance, as well as mindfulness moments.
Because they target the show to the entire family, it becomes a way for everyone to enjoy creative learning and activities to do at home or in the garden.
“The show’s success stems from the fact that it gave young children out of school a chance to learn science in a holistic, enjoyable fashion that made them incredibly curious about the world around them.”
N*Gen offers a unique product. Enjoyable science learning through role models that come from your own community!
It breaks down the stereotype of who can be a scientist, Dr. Joy goes on.
“It makes learning science fun,” she adds.
Challenging Gender Stereotypes
This project goal is to foster a culture of curiosity and discovery, model new holistic ways of approaching learning, and promote positive gender norms.
We looked through some ways they achieve these aims and how it’s going so far.
“In our first season, we focused on a whole range of themes with presenters from across the Continent. We presented episodes on Space, Robots, Sound, Light, Food, Bones, Bees and even had an episode on life in the wetlands of Uganda.
“In each episode African women host teachers who introduce the topic and present the learning bite, supported by imagery, music and animation.”
They then invited young hosts between 7 and 12 years to meet and explore more on the subject with an expert in the field.
The experts are African men or women that are leaders in their field and talk to the children, answering questions and explaining what their work is like, she further explains.
“So, rather than have a dull science lesson with a host who stands in front of a screen telling you how science works, N*Gen immerses young people in the experience and through the eyes of their peers.”,
In addition, illustrating diverse professions of women, N*Gen challenges gender stereotypes professions.
Dr. Joy elaborates that wherever possible the science expert will be an African woman telling them all about her work, exactly where she works; in the ocean, up a mountain, in the laboratory.
Whereas, their second season focuses on climate change, conservation, biodiversity and health, this will foster awareness of the impact their own communities can have on the planet, wildlife, and more.
“It is deeply important for our viewers to believe that they too can aspire to succeed in science or technology, while having a positive impact on their community.”
The show has spread throughout the continent quickly, considering it is still in its first year and we take on a new broadcaster from around Africa almost every month.
“Our Africa Teacher Challenge is also great for getting teacher attention and ideas from all over. It gives us a measure of our reach and impact.”, Dr. Joy further explains.
So, how is it going?
“So far so good.”, she replies, while bringing into discussion that feedback from families has been very positive and they hope to get through to many more families across the continent.
The contribution of N*Gen lies also in helping families stay safe during the pandemic and also giving people the critical thinking tools to fight misinformation.
N*Gen offers young people insight into the exciting world around them and lets them make up their own minds.
“We cannot appear to be the bearer of all things factual. Rather, we offer opportunities for children to discover the answers for themselves. Creating a culture of curiosity allows an individual to learn how to think for themselves and learn to question and discover on their own.”
“For instance, when we were filming the OCEANS episode, our young hosts helped do a beach clean-up while learning about marine life and the impact of warmer oceans on the coral reef. During this experience we introduced them to marine biodiversity, the coral reef ecosystem and even had the chance to release turtles into the sea.”
What do they take away from such an experience?
“Well, then they have to tell their peers what they saw and did and what it meant meeting the experts by the sea. It is an amazing experience for them they can share with other children all over the continent.”, Dr. Joy concludes, while encouraging everyone to visit them on social media.
From Africa to India, many different initiatives are changing how we see education.
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