27 January 2011

Cartoons for a cause

This week the UN launched a 32-page educational comic book, ‘SCORE THE GOALS: Teaming Up to Achieve the Millennium Development Goals’. It features caricatures of 10 real footballers who are UN Goodwill Ambassadors. In the comic they tackle the eight MDGs as they strive to be rescued from a shipwreck. Borrowing from a long legacy of comic stories including the prize-winning 'Maus: A Survivor's Tale', by Art Spiegelman, the UN comic marks an effort to reach out to wide audiences, especially youth, and engage them in human development.

Meanwhile, over at Indian youth blog theViewsPaper, Sainyam Gautam writes that people can get useful information, inspiration and guidance from almost any cartoon, making the art form competitive with documentaries and musicals.

Gautam argues that comics are not simply child's play. Nor, it seems, are children's TV shows, where politics and education are increasingly playing a role. Medical journal The Lancet (vol. 11, Issue 2, pp 86-87) describes how USA puppets The Muppets have become a health education tool in Nigeria, teaching children about HIV and blood safety thanks to funding from UNAIDS and the President's Emergency Program for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).

Should educators and institutions be addressing themselves to children in this way? Can comics, cartoons and puppet shows be educational and entertaining at the same time?

You be the judge!