Every Kyrgyz child can now join the Magic Journey
By Galina Solodunova
13 November 2006 - A green balloon glides up to the ceiling of the Children’s Recreation Centre “Seitek” in Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan. As the friendly clown released it, the children and adults present shouted “Green and round!” Kaniet, 4, sitting in the front row, tried to be first to name the colour and shape of the objects being shown by the clown. This little game was part of a preview of a new animated television series called “Magic Journey”.
“It is the first series of animated stories to be developed in Kyrgyzstan in the last 20 years,” said Vice-President of the National Kyrgyz Tele/Radio Corporation, Beishinbek Bekeshev, at the launch.
“These are special programmes – cartoons in which children can learn through the magic trips of the main characters,” said UNICEF Representative in Kyrgyzstan, Timothy Schaffter. “Parents can also learn how to better help children develop their full potential,” he stressed.
For Kaniet, a boy from a migrant community near Bishkek, it was a special day. Accompanied by his mother Dinara Omurzakova, he had come to see his favorite characters Aktan and Akylay. Although these characters will star on TV for the first time, they have already gained the love of children and their parents across the country as they feature in five popular children’s books developed by UNICEF two years ago.
Through reading of the characters’ adventures, Kaniet and his brother Bahtiar, aged 12, have already learned many things: what vitamins can be found in the garden; why they need to wash their hands; why iodized salt should be used for cooking; and why mum should use wheat flour enriched with vitamins, and minerals including iron, to keep the family healthy. With themes of love and care, the books play a special role in their family. Bahtiar has memorised some of the poems which he recites particularly when his parents are quarrelling or if somebody raises their voice to the children. The brothers’ favourite book of the series is the one about games. It inspires the whole family to invent new games and to play together.
For the next year, Aktan and Akylay will be seen on TV by children like Kaniet and Bahtiar every evening. Together, the two characters will set out on a fabulous journey where they will meet new friends from the countries of “knowledge”, “health”, “art”, “music”, “magic events” and “skillful hands”.
The series will give hints, ideas and recommendations on better childcare as well as promote positive childcare principles for parents. Sensitive issues including psychosocial development, violence and neglect will be covered in a storyline where the main characters are transformed into superheroes and help imaginary children from an imaginary country to deal with these issues. Thanks to country-wide coverage on the national television channel, the animated programmes will even reach the remote corners of the republic. Although most of the population speaks Kyrgyz, there has already been a request to consider translating the “Magic Journey” into Russian and Uzbek.
A presentation on this groundbreaking animation was held on 31 October to mark the year-long project undertaken by the National Kyrgyz Tele/Radio Corporation with support from UNICEF, the Aga Khan Foundation and the Early Childhood Development Programme under the President’s Administration.
The Early Childhood Care and Education Project of UNICEF Kyrgyzstan works to ensure that children, especially those living in the most deprived areas of Kyrgyzstan, have access to facilities which encourage healthy development and allow them to thrive socially, emotionally, intellectually and physically. Improving parental skills and empowering parents to take a lead role in developing their child’s potential is one of the main priorities of UNICEF’s work in this area.
Every story in the “Magic Journey” will invite young viewers and their parents to write their comments and ideas to help develop storylines and scripts for the cartoon characters. Children like Kaniet and Bahtiar will be encouraged to become regular contributors.