Oakland, California — Ethiopian entrepreneur Bruktawit “Brukty” Tigabu will launch a six-week crowdfunding campaign on February 18 to raise money for Tsehai’s Amharic Classroom Library Project to build libraries in Ethiopian public elementary schools. She is working with HigherCircle.com, a new Oakland-based Internet crowdfunding platform that supports social entrepreneurs.
Tigabu is co-founder and CEO of Whiz Kids Workshop P.L.C., an internationally acclaimed children’s education media company. Often referred to as “the Sesame Street of Ethiopia,” the enterprise is best known for its hit series Tsehai Loves Learning (Tsehai Memare Twedaletch) that reaches an estimated five million children each week through television broadcasts and video screenings in schools, health clinics and refugee camps. Fast Company magazine recently named Tigabu as one of the “Most Creative People in Business 1,000” (alongside Bill Gates, Arianna Huffington, Larry Page and Jay Z).
“We are honored that Brukty chose Higher Circle as the crowdfunding platform to launch Tsehai’s Amharic Classroom Library Project. She and her team aspire to do nothing short of create a new culture of reading for Ethiopian children,” said Higher Circle Founder and CEO William Silva. “It’s a bold challenge to education inequalities in her country and she hopes to find support for it in the United States from the Ethiopian diaspora and international adoption communities, as well as from people who are interested in supporting innovative literacy initiatives.”
In some regions of Ethiopia, only 45% of students complete grade one. Among the students who do continue, research shows that more than 50% have zero reading comprehension, even at the end of grade two. To make matters worse, Amharic (Ethiopia’s official language) is difficult to learn, with over 230 characters, mostly taught through rote learning — kids copy, memorize and repeat. Supplementary books in Amharic are limited; most are poor quality and unappealing to kids.
First language literacy is critical in the development of a young person. When you grow up speaking a language, you think in that language. Words influence thoughts. When you can’t read and write effectively in your own language, you are limited in your thoughts as well. Mastery of your own language has also shown to be a huge advantage for when someone goes on to learn a second language like English.
Despite how important this is, students and teachers across Ethiopia dread Amharic class as the most boring and frustrating period in their regular schedule.
Over the past year, the Whiz Kids Workshop team of literacy experts, writers and artists, along with a content advisory group created the best Amharic teaching materials Ethiopian teachers and kids have ever seen. “The response to our literacy curriculum has been joyous and heartening,” said Tigabu. “The challenge now is to reach ALL Ethiopian children with this great material — not just the schools and families who can afford it. That’s why we are turning to the global community to help make this ambitious project happen.”
Tsehai’s Amharic Classroom Library Project
Each classroom library includes:
32 original storybooks illustrated in full color. Each book focuses on one Amharic letter in the alphabet and includes a teachers’ guide for activities and exercises. Note: these books have been translated into English and are available as ebooks.
32 animated episodes of our hit television show Tsehai Loves Learning that build on the lessons of the books
32 full-color classroom posters featuring each of the letters
297 illustrated flash cards featuring words and letters
Custom-made bookshelves and flashcard sleeves
A mural featuring our character Tsehai, whom Ethiopian children embrace as a symbol for exploration and learning.
A training video to help teachers get the most out of the materials in their classrooms.
Higher Circle Crowdfunding Campaign
Tigabu’s initial goal for the crowdfunding campaign is to raise $25,000 in contributions to establish classroom libraries at 10 schools in Addis Ababa at no charge to the schools. Each school will receive six classroom libraries for its Grade 1 – 4 classrooms, building a total of 60 classroom libraries, reaching 3,600 students and distributing 1,920 books, 480 lesson DVDs, 960 reading posters, 17,820 flashcards and 60 teacher training DVDs. Her hope is that the campaign will surpass this goal and raise enough money to eventually provide classroom libraries for children throughout Ethiopia.
“With your help, we will put these materials into the hands of students and teachers who need them the most. Thank you so much for joining us in this project to transform first language learning in Ethiopia. We have the tools now to empower a generation of readers,” said Tigabu.
For more information about Tsehai’s Amharic Classroom Library Project crowdfunding campaign, please see highercircle.com/campaigns/tsehai-loves-learning-libraries.
About Bruktawit Tigabu
Bruktawit Tigabu, CEO and co-founder of Whiz Kids Workshop, began her professional career as a primary school teacher in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa. Determined to close the early education gap in her country, she looked for ways to prepare children to learn before they entered the school system. In 2005, with her husband, Brukty set up Whiz Kids Workshop. Working from their living room, using sock puppets, computer graphics and their own voices, they began producing Tsehai Loves Learning, a television program about a young, female giraffe named Tsehai. Brukty and her work with Whiz Kids Workshop have earned much recognition for making a major contribution to first language learning in Ethiopia, including Fast Company’s Most Creative People in Business 2014, Microsoft Education Award 2011, The Tech Awards 2011, Rolex Young Laureate 2010, UNESCO Japan Prize 2009, Pre-School Category of Japan Prize 2008, Next Generation Prix Jeunesse International 2008 and Educating Africa Prize 2008. whizkidsworkshop.com
About Higher Circle
Higher Circle is a hybrid crowdfunding platform that facilitates both loans and donations for visionary entrepreneurs around the world. We support enterprises that create measurable and lasting social and economic growth in their local regions. Higher Circle loan funders can earn a return on their investments, and contributors receive awesome thank-you gifts for their generosity. highercircle.com