By Shane Powell
VIENTIANE, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, 28 March 2012 – Stunts by a miniature red buffalo stole the show at a recent ceremony held to screen new media productions for children in Lao PDR.
|27 February 2012: UNICEF correspondent Rachel O'Brien reports on a media workshop designed to enhance early learning for children in Lao PDR. Watch in RealPlayer|
Though the buffalo’s performance – pushing and pulling a series of green balls that magically transformed themselves into numbers – was aimed at the pre-school children in attendance, the adult audience also burst into laughter.
The so-called ‘Clever Buffalo’ was a feat of clay animation, or claymation. It was a short film by a production team that had just finished a training session on ‘Innovative Communication for Early Childhood Development’.
Organized by the Lao Government and UNICEF, the training was part of wider efforts to strengthen local skills and capacity to generate quality media for children in Lao PDR.
Reaching heads and hearts
Television programmes currently reaching children in Lao PDR are often low-quality, dubbed imports from Thailand or Korea. Yet research conducted around the world suggests that high-quality media produced for children – including television and radio programmes, books, Internet sites, puppet shows, and dramas – can effectively promote development goals. For example, educational television can encourage school preparedness among pre-schoolers, promote self-confidence and model positive child-caregiver relationships.
Working with local organizations, UNICEF is encouraging the production of local media with a holistic approach to early childhood development (ECD).
|© UNICEF video|
|An artist creates a clay sculpture for a claymation video in Vientiane, Lao PDR.|
“A very important aspect of communicating with children is to make sure we’re not just reaching their heads… not just teaching them 1-2-3 or A-B-C, but also touching their hearts,” explained Barbara Kolucki, a social communication consultant for UNICEF who facilitated the workshop. “We’re trying to excite them about life and a love of learning.”
Lao storytellers, artists, musicians, singers, and radio and TV producers gathered for the entire week to discuss methods of using media to stimulate children’s ability to think, form relationships and reach their fullest potential. Other draft productions at the screening included a picture book, radio and TV spots, and children’s songs. Select productions are now being refined and pretested in preparation for airing on local media.
Developing children at the earliest stage
Media partners in the country are increasingly well positioned to communicate in innovative and engaging ways with children and their families on topics and issues important to ECD. Through this programme, a series of 12 to 15 claymation episodes will be produced for local television. They will also be reviewed for adaptation as books and other formats.
“We already know that the combined effects of good health, nutrition, child-friendly education and a protective environment are essential to a child’s development. But as more and more research shows, this is not enough,” said Savankhone Razmountry, Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism. “A child also requires appropriate stimulation and interaction with love and support from the earliest stages of life. When this happens, he or she will perform better in school, in relationships and in work as an adult.”