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South Africa

Soul Buddyz—influencing young people across South Africa and beyond

© UNICEF/2004/Thomas
Actress Salamina Mphelo plays 15-year-old Zandi in Soul Buddyz.
SOWETO, South Africa, 25 May 2004—It’s entertainment and it’s educational. Children love it and so do their parents. What’s more, it’s helping to protect a new generation of South Africans from HIV/AIDS.

Soul Buddyz is an award-winning multimedia “edutainment” experience equipping 8-12 year olds with potentially life-saving messages before they become sexually active.

Every week, young actors encounter, explore and solve the kinds of issues and problems that face young South Africans in real life, from bullying, racism and abuse to smoking, love, sex and HIV/AIDS.

“On Soul Buddyz we show something bad and then solve it immediately,” explains Salamina Mphelo, who plays 15-year-old Zandi on the popular TV programme.

“When kids see it on TV and can relate to a character, they accept and remember the message because Zandi said it and they think Zandi is really cool.”

Soul Buddyz is a vital initiative in a country where 40 per cent of the population is under 18 and HIV prevalence rates are in double figures.

Initial research suggests that Soul Buddyz and similar interventions might be helping to delay the age at which young South Africans first have sex, a trend that could have an enormous impact in helping to release HIV’s grip on the country and the rest of African continent.

Starting as a weekly nationwide television show, Soul Buddyz has been expanded into a radio show in nine different local languages and a growing network of 1,300 youth clubs where children meet to take part in activities based on the themes of the programme.

© UNICEF/2004/Thomas
Tebogo Siyaponga, aged 12, is a Soul Buddyz club member and avid viewer.
Tebogo Siyaponga, a 12-year-old orphan who lives with his grandmother, two cousins and four siblings in a small house in Soweto, watches the programme every week.

He was one of the first to join the Soul Buddyz club at his school and was recently selected to advise the script writers on how to ensure that the show accurately captures the issues facing young people today.

“I like the programme because it teaches me many things,” said Tebogo. “For example, if you want to protect yourself [from HIV/AIDS] you should avoid casual sex or use a condom and not touch a person who is bleeding with your own hands. You should wear something.

“I also learned that you must care for people who are HIV positive and not discriminate against them,” he added.

Recently, Tebogo and other members of the Soul Buddyz club at Soweto’s Winnie Ngwekazi Primary School performed a drama during morning assembly. The club members wrote the play using materials provided by Soul Buddyz. The theme of the comedy drama was that peer pressure can be applied to stop bullying at school. It was received by their peers and teachers with whoops of laughter and enthusiastic applause.

Tebogo’s grandmother and primary caregiver is very impressed with the effect the Soul Buddyz programme is having on her grandchildren.

“I think it’s a good programme. It is important because you shouldn’t hide anything from children. They need to know everything about the world. Otherwise they might do bad things without knowing it,” said Alina Seipati, a retired machinist who at 58 is now trying to provide for eight grandchildren by sewing curtains in her spare time.   

Soul Buddyz also provides posters and a bi-monthly newsletter to each club and written guides for parents and teachers to use in discussing difficult issues with children. Newspapers across the country distribute the leaflets free of charge and the TV and radio shows are broadcast in South Africa and beyond by the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC).

“We are basically promoting children’s rights and responsibilities and the idea that children can be active participants in solving their own problems,” said Aadielah Maker, Soul Buddyz Senior Manager. “They are not passive, they’re wanting to be involved with change.




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UNICEF’s Thomas Nybo reports on Soul Buddyz, the multimedia “edutainment” experience for 8-12 year olds.

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