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At a glance: Japan

Internet documentary on Liberian refugee school wins UNICEF award at Japan Prize 2007

© NHK/2007
Winners at the Japan Prize 2007 competition, where the UNICEF Prize, which supports understanding of children in difficult situations, was awarded.

By Mihoko Nakagawa

TOKYO, Japan, 31 October 2007 – 'Inspirations: A West African Story', a documentary about a school for Liberian refugee children in Ghana, has won a special UNICEF award at Japan Prize 2007, an international educational programme contest organized by NHK, the Japan Broadcasting Corporation.

The UNICEF Prize, one of several special honours presented at the annual Japan Prize ceremony, has been awarded since 1967 to programmes that promote understanding of the lives or circumstances of children in difficult situations.

This year's Japan Prize competition received a total of 262 contest entries from 150 organizations in more than 50 countries. 'Inspirations', the UNICEF Prize 2007 winner, was produced by teachers.tv, a digital channel that offers educational programmes on demand and free of charge on the Internet.

© NHK/2007
Director of the UNICEF Tokyo Office for Japan and the Republic of Korea Dan Rohrmann presents the UNICEF Prize to Dorothy Stiven of teachers.tv.

Hopes for future of child soldiers

The documentary looks at the day-to-day struggles of the refugee school, built entirely by volunteers, and the motivations that drive the teachers, students and community to leave behind their traumatic past in Liberia's civil war.

The resilient community around the school is determined to give the best possible education to refugee children. While families struggle with poverty and infectious diseases, the school faces the challenge of paying teachers, ensuring quality learning and creating a child-friendly environment. 

The school tries to help the children learn about the past and understand their Liberian roots – including coming to terms with the tragedies that took place during the war, when child soldiers were recruited and forced to participate in horrific events. 

“During the war, they were given drugs and forced into the army. They never knew what they were doing … it’s a good thing to know the past,” says a drama teacher featured in the film. Later, a female student in the teacher's class makes a plea to “forgive [the former child soldiers] and bring peace and reconciliation.”

New media tools

In the 40 years since the first UNICEF Prize was awarded, the issues faced by children have changed and diversified – ranging from natural disasters to living with the effects of HIV/AIDS as well as armed conflict. The media devices and tools used to educate children have also changed dramatically, as the teachers.tv Internet production reflects.

This technological advancement is certainly bringing the rest of the world closer to the reality of children at risk. 




Watch online at teachers.tv: 'Inspirations: A West African Story'
(external link, opens in a new window)

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