This past week's class featured two great presentations but I was particularly interested in the group that focused on edutainment, a strategy which harnesses media for educational purposes. It seems like a great way to diffuse important information on health and pro-social behavior to those who may not be so responsive to traditional methods of health education, such as pamphlets. Further, it does not discriminate based on education, and in some cases like Sesame Street can teach literacy in alternative ways.
However, after reading Silvio Waisboard’s Family Tree of Theories, Methodologies and Strategies in Development Communication I definitely see where there can be particular issues with edutainment, especially Sesame Street which is distinctly Western in methodology. Waisboard notes that edutainment, “subscribes to the Shannon-Weaver model of communication of sender-channel-message-receiver, a model that does not take culture and other environmental factors into account.” In layman’s terms: how we perceive our message to translate does not always get interpreted the same way by the receiver. Nigeria’s Sesame Street may have changed names, food groups and certain characteristics, yet the communication methodology is still the same therefore while on the surface Sesame Street is accommodating cultural norms, is it really digging deep enough to respect culture that is below the surface?
Sesame Street in Nigeria has only been in place for less than a year, so its success is still undetermined. I remain skeptical, especially considering that other forms of edutainment that are grassroots, such as Soul City in South Africa do not have an overwhelming amount of research that supports it as successful (per the group’s presentation).