Ackee Walk - Positive values for Jamaican children
"Welcome to Ackee Walk a Jamaican city full of vibes, culture and history ... children play and children sing, children learn about everything..." is the introduction to a fun and exciting animated puppet series conceptualised and developed right here in Jamaica.
Ackee Walk, designed for preschoolers up to age six, is set in a family-oriented community in Jamaica. It teaches children about their rights and responsibilities, with the objectives of promoting authentic Jamaican culture and uplifting transferable values and attitudes.
The programme is aligned with the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals for quality education, peace, justice, strong social institutions, gender equality, climate action, and reduced poverty and hunger globally. In this regard, Ackee Walk is the perfect tool for educational purposes, providing an entertaining space that teaches lessons such as self-identity, respect for those with disabilities, and respect for the environment.
Emprezz Golding and husband, Stephen, are the chief architects behind the project that is funded by The United Nations Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF) Jamaica and is produced locally by Television Jamaica. In its pilot stage, the first season, produced with 26 six-minute episodes, currently airs on Television Jamaica on Saturdays at 10:30 a.m.
The concept, according to Emprezz, came following a trip to Brazil while working on a 'Talk Up Yout' project with UNICEF. While there, she came across black handmade puppets and decided to purchase them to use for reading sessions with her young child. When the puppets were used, her child became so engaged that her husband suggested that they create a puppet show to engage other children at his level.
"Stephen came up with a lot of the characters. We went through many names for the series, but decided on Ackee Walk because it truly speaks about Jamaica. Every aspect of Ackee Walk, from the characters to the community, is a reflection of Jamaica at its best. It's most peaceful and functionally productive," Emprezz said.
The characters in Ackee Walk include Lucea, a six-year-old girl from the 'country' who moves to Ackee Walk when her parents emigrate to work abroad. Kingston is an energetic six-year-old boy with an enquiring mind who is always investigating issues in his community, and Gong, who is Kingston's father, has strong Rastafarian influences and is engaged in community-building initiatives to ensure that his community is safe for his son and all children. Lorna is Kingston's mother and Gong's wife, and although she works daily, she always finds time to take care of her son and anyone else who may need her help.
Other characters include Nana, a traditional Jamaican grandmother who is a retired teacher living in Ackee Walk and takes care of her granddaughter Lucea, while Lucea's parents are abroad working.
Sammy is the farmer who is an age-contemporary with Nana and grows most of the food Ackee Walk residents consume. He is particularly interested in preserving the environment and promoting farming as an important profession.
Miss Elizabeth teaches Lucea and Kingston at school. A patient and kind young woman, she is dedicated to not only educating her students, but to inspire them to contribute positively to the development of Ackee Walk and St Andrew who is also best friend to both Kingston and Lucea. Although he is unable to walk and uses a wheelchair, he is never left out of playtime and always has fun with Kingston and Lucea.
The producers of the series want to ensure that family and friends locally and in the diaspora are in touch with their Jamaican culture while learning about Ackee Walk's number-one rule - 'Nuff Respect'.
"There aren't many Jamaican or African-centred shows on television that speak to our culture. Most of our children are currently watching American shows, so we are trying to fill the gap via this media," Emprezz said.
Resource materials with information on the rights of the child, including child-rights education toolkits for educators and school administrators, are also available on the Ackee Walk website for teachers and parents. There are also general co-watching tips for parents.
The creators and producers of Ackee Walk are definitely open to and looking for investors interested in early-childhood development to join forces to develop and export this project to the world.
To support Ackee Walk,
visit their website www.ackeewalk.com and watch some of the complementary episodes and complete the surveys to aid in developing associated products and future Ackee Walk seasons.