|The Coat of arms of Kenya (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
By Edward Pentin
NAIROBI, December 06, 2013 (Zenit.org) - A new Kenya-based Catholic television education channel has the potential to bring the teachings of the Catholic Church and a high standard of education to millions of young people in Africa.
It also promises to be an effective bulwark against a rapidly growing presence of protestant evangelical channels and ministries on the continent, according to those involved in the project.
Called Elimu Digital Media, the channel has been broadcasting secondary education courses to school-age students and young adults on free-to-air digital television since September 2012.
In a country where education remains a luxury and many students have to walk hours to school -- some so far they cannot attend at all -- the service promises to help revolutionise learning on the African continent.
It could also assist other vulnerable young people such as girls who dropped out of schools because of early pregnancy, and are unable to go back to school because of responsibilities of caring for their children.
"The project brings the classroom to the people, rather than the people to the classroom," Christian Peschken, a Catholic filmmaker in the United States, who supports and represents Elimu in the United States and Europe, told ZENIT.
The Kenyan Government, which now accepts alternative methods of basic education, approves of Elimu running the national school curriculum on its channel. Moreover, the channel is backed by Catholic institutions including two religious orders and a well-known EWTN presenter, Fr. Maurice Emelu.
Fr. Emelu will provide programs and produce new series for the channel.
The education programs, which combine mobile and web learning, also come at a propitious time when Kenya is converting to digital technology.
Elimu says it plans to create 50 television centers within Catholic Church compounds or neighborhoods to enable youth in slum areas to access the programs. And although many residents in Kenya still do not have electricity, students will have access to information technology centers which are becoming increasingly widespread. Most exist so locals can recharge their mobile phones; the majority of African citizens now own a mobile device.
Elimu says the channel will also be able to reach out to students in neighboring countries such as Sudan, Somalia, Uganda and Tanzania where the Kenyan Education certificates and curriculum are accepted.
Although some education programs already exist via radio, Elimu is the first television channel where students can tune in any time and are immediately 'in class'. "It is a unique, new concept," says Peschken.
The project is the brainchild of Jane Muriuki who also plans to donate TV sets and decoders to schools in slums.
Elimu is not completely filled with educational programming, and airtime needs to be utilised. For this reason, Peschken, who also is an independent producer for EWTN, would like to involve other Catholic organisations and Catholic TV content producers.
"The African continent is overflowing with evangelical ministries and programs," he said, citing well-known evangelicals such as the German protestant charismatic Reinhard Bonnke who have made great inroads on the continent. "The Catholic Church in Africa is not as dominant as it could be, and so any chance for it to have a greater presence, especially in the media, should be taken advantage of."