Morality and ambition in Africa

23rd June 2006 at 01:00
Tom Deveson looks at two films that take us inside the minds of children coping with drought and distance

IDDI AND ESTHER. FARM-Africa pound;5 (Video or DVD). From Lynne Slowey, FARM-Africa. 9-10 Southampton Place. London WC1A 2EA. or go to

WE'RE CHANGING OUR WORLD. Christian Aid pound;20 (video or DVD). Order by email: or tel: 08700 787 788. Order code: P389A (video) or P389B (DVD)

In these two admirable films we meet seven children from East Africa who tell us about their way of life and pose pertinent questions about ours.

Iddi, 13, and Esther, 10, live in Tanzania - he in a small town, she in the country, although they attend the same school.

We eavesdrop on lessons, watch them doing chores, visiting the doctor and going to market. The school teaches chicken rearing and vegetable gardening, and we find out why. Pupils at key stage 2 will find much to interest them in the story of their less privileged contemporaries. They will also be prompted to think about why Iddi and Esther have different views about their circumstances and their ambitions. Esther would love to live in town and be able to buy a dress, or even a newspaper, without walking for miles. Iddi hopes to become a surgeon.

A teachers' booklet suggest many ways in which those old standbys compare and contrast can generate curiosity, discussion and reflection.

The children in We're Changing Our World live in very different parts of Kenya. Frederick and Eunice are from rural families and have to deal with the drought that blights their crops. Peter guides us around his shanty town. When he points in disgust to the open sewers created by "flying toilets", the smell almost comes through the screen. Gladys and Daniel attend after-school drama classes, where they act out some of the moral and social issues in which they are involved and discover how they avoid conflict out in the street.

The film and the support materials are explicitly Christian in outlook. The partnership within which Christian Aid is helping to build tanks or develop irrigation systems are directly inspired by Jesus's teaching.

The teachers' guide pursues these themes in more detail, suggesting ways in which children might differentiate between I need and I want, or think about the parable of the talents and its implications about a fairer world.

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