Open sesame! : learning life skills from Takalani Sesame : a reception study of selected grade one learners in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa.
Early Childhood Development (ECD) programmes are important in the promotion of intellectual development and school readiness in children. Equally important is the opportunity to learn in one‟s mother tongue. This study aimed to determine the value of using the multilingual television series Takalani Sesame as a Life Skills educational resource in specific South African schools, amongst Grade One learners. The focus lay on researching a possible mechanism for allowing children who had not attended quality ECD programmes to „catch up‟ in terms of knowledge they may be lacking, as well as providing a form of mother tongue instruction to African learners in schools where the language of instruction is English. A field experiment and a reception study were carried out at a primary school in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa. Two groups of twelve Grade One learners (from two different Grade One classes at the same school) were included in this research, which spanned a period of 6 months. The children in the test group watched a television series of Takalani Sesame (with guided viewing) and completed related activities including post viewing and homework activities. The children in the control group were not shown the series at school. Both groups were administered the same questionnaire both pre- and post-test in order to determine changes in Life Skills related learnt data. Other research methods included participant observation, focus group discussions, interviews with parents/caregivers and interviews with educators. These used Social Cognitive Theory as their basis, taking constructs that impact on behaviour change, such as modelling, outcome expectancies and behavioural capabilities into account. The research included a large focus on interpersonal communication between researcher and learner, and caregiver and learner, plus a concentration on the children‟s knowledge of and attitudes surrounding HIV/AIDS. Results showed satisfactory levels of attention to the series, as well as high levels of engagement with and enjoyment of the series. Levels of identification with characters were also noted to be high, increasing the possibilities of learning and behaviour change taking place. Decoding of messages was, for the most part, in line with the intentions of the producers, although oppositional readings, erroneous and creative decoding were also noted in some instances. The guided viewing component did well to increase levels of attention to the episode as well as allow for erroneously decoded messages to be corrected almost immediately. Positive changes in learnt data in the Life Skills areas of HIV/AIDS, Nutrition and Safety and Security were identified and these were noted to be impacted on by the homework activities which were included in the intervention to promote parent/caregiver-child communication. The research intervention was deemed to be a success in the selected school, and could possibly be recommended for use in similar South African primary schools where learners are taught in a language which is not their mother tongue. Possible areas for future related research were outlined. This research study contributes to the body of Entertainment Education (EE) research by identifying a new and valuable application for an EE intervention in the South African setting. This highlights the important aspects of localisation, in the South African context, promoting mother tongue learning and ECD.