Bruktawit Tigabu awarded Outstanding Social Entrepreneur of the year 2018 by the Schwab Foundation at World Economic Forum.
Bruktawit Tigabu began her professional career as a primary school teacher in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa. Determined to improve the conditions of children in her country, she looked for ways to educate children on a mass scale. In 2005, with her husband, Bruktawit established the educational multimedia enterprise Whiz Kids Workshop. Working from their living room, using sock puppets, computer graphics and their own voices, they began producing Tsehai Loves Learning, the first educational preschool television program in the country. Whiz Kids Workshop went on to develop further programs and win numerous international awards such as the Next Generation Prize at Prix Jeunesse International (2008) and the Japan Prize International Contest for Educational Media (2008, 2009). Bruktawit was named a Rolex Young Laureate in 2010 and one of Fast Company’s 2012 most creative people in business.
Whiz Kids Workshop
Whiz Kids is filling the educational gaps for Ethiopia’s children and young people through mass media. It uses the wide reach of television, radio and print media in Ethiopia to disseminate educational messages in seven local languages with an emphasis on early childhood education, healthy behaviour, literacy and gender equality.
Whiz Kids’ educational programmes include Whiz Kids’ flagship, international award-winning programme: Tsehai Loves Learning, launched in 2007, which is a TV and radio programme aimed to educate children aged three to eight about health, ethics and literacy. It was the first programme of its kind to be created in Ethiopia, and has become a national hit, reaching up to 5 million TV viewers every week and an estimated 10 million radio listeners. Other programmes include the TV and radio show Tibeb Girls, which tackles gender-based violence and discrimination and seeks to educate and empower teenage girls, and the TV shows Involve Me and Little Investigators, which give teenagers a voice and encourage their scientific curiosity.
Whiz Kids works closely with schools and trains teachers to integrate their educational programmes into the classroom, for which Whiz Kids produces DVDs and complementary learning materials. They are also sold on Amazon and to organizations such as Save the Children and World Vision. All of Whiz Kids’ educational materials are developed in-house, based on research in innovative pedagogy. The Ethiopian Ministry of Health and Ministry of Education both sit in the Content Advisory Group and provide technical and content creation support, as well as access to government schools for research and testing.
Whiz Kids is diligent in monitoring the impact and efficiency of its educational materials. For instance, in 2015, Whiz Kids conducted a cluster-randomized controlled trial to assess the impact of the Tsehai Loves Learning health-related TV episodes and found that children’s health knowledge doubled in comparison to a control group after being exposed to them. These findings led to the integration of the programme into 400 schools (reaching more than 150,000 children and their teachers) and the development of a software application to monitor the integration in partnership with local government.