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Lifescapes Film Festival: Agrarian Utopia

We have had a fantastic time at the Lifescapes Film Festival in . The selection of films so far has been spot on. The Open Air Cinema Foundation (OACF) is looking to work with many of the directors here to find ways to screen their work on open air screens throughout the region, particularly during OACF’s Mekong Mobile Film Festival to take place next year.

Agrarian Utopia was the first film screened at the festival today. Its a beautiful film by Uruphong Raksasad. Take a look at the trailer for a glimpse.

Agrarian Utopia

Facing seizure of their own lands, two families found themselves farming together on the same field, hoping to get through just another rice-farming season like every year. But no matter how much the world is evolving, how much the country is going through economic, political and social changes, they still cannot grasp that ideology of happiness.

How can we dream of utopia while our stomach is still grumbling?

The Director

Born in 1977 to a farming family in the district of Terng – 60 kilometres from Chiang Rai, northern part of , Uruphong Raksasad came to Bangkok for the first time when he was 18 to further his study at Thammasat University’s Faculty of Journalism and Mass Communications, where he majored in film and photography. After graduation in 2000, he had worked as a film editor and post-production supervisor for several Thai feature films. Since 2004, he left quietly from the industry and has tried to achieve his grassroots filmmaking through the story from his home village.

Apart from filmmaking, what interests me to an equal extent is agriculture. I feel it is among mankind’s most noble professions. To compare, in agriculture we get to produce food from the soil for direct consumption, while other occupations only produce us income for buying food. I wonder whether all these professions we have in the world (including filmmaking) are really necessary. How much does the world really need them? I feel that the more we complicate things, the more it produces emptiness and unfulfillment in return, one way or another.

Modern agriculture is facing problems on many levels, from land ownership to national policy’s focus on economic growth and international competition. What are all these for ultimately? I wonder if globalization forces today have become much more powerful than national governments. I don’t know where it will take us.

Agriculture in Thailand today, and perhaps throughout the world as well, is mostly no longer about household use. It’s just another industrial business of trades, with an aim to make money for solving other problems that we caused, directly and indirectly. So farmers now need to focus on productivity by using chemicals and machines, and obviously they put less importance on food safety. With this, Thailand no longer has what it takes to claim to be the granary of the world. I was born a farmer’s son. Although my parents didn’t expect me to farm for a living, as they see it’s hard work and earns little. We can no longer farm in any case for two reasons: one is that the bank has already taken almost all our lands. And second, farming won’t help us paying off all our debts in this lifetime. We are not able to live the idealistic, utopian life. We can only do the best we could to get by, that’s all.

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Chiang Mai, Thailand: Open Air Cinema Foundation at the Lifescapes Southeast Asia Film Festival

We will be hopping a flight bright and early tomorrow morning for () to attend the Lifescapes Southeast Asia Film Festival. The Lifescapes program will screen contemporary films – documentary, docu-drama, dramatic – to showcase thoughtful work with a social conscience. The festival hopes to raise awareness the film culture and filmmakers of Southeast Asia who make meaningful social commentary with their work – showing the “beautiful” without flinching from “grim reality.”

The films will explore regional issues within mainland Southeast Asia: Cambodia, Lao, Burma/Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam. The program will be interactive, offering directors, producers, NGO representatives, and audience members the opportunity to join together in post-screening Q&A sessions, panel discussions, and talks throughout the program.

In addition to the films, presentations include the use of music in film, the purpose of film to merge beauty, entertainment and social conscience, as well as film censorship in SE Asia. We will also hear from training organizations in SE Asia who provide opportunity for young, local filmmakers to tell their stories through film.

The main objectives of the Lifescapes Film Festival are right in line with the mission of the Open Air Cinema Foundation:

Objective 1
To use film and cinematic art as a medium to explore regional issues and human rights struggles within the five mainland Southeast Asian countries: Cambodia, , Burma/Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam (Mekong Sub-Region).

Objective 2
To celebrate Southeast Asian filmmakers who insert meaningful and necessary social commentary into their work; thus, successfully merging cinematic aesthetic and social conscience.

Objective 3
To converge the media, education, and NGO sectors in the Mekong Sub-Region to engage in dialogue, forge relationships, and build ideas between groups to further global and regional initiatives.

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Luang Prabang, Laos: UNICEF’s One Minutes Jr Video Clips Screened in the Open Air

One of the most interesting components of the Film Festival was the One Minutes Jr. program. Fifteen young students from participated in filmmaking workshops held in Vientiane, . By the end of the workshops each student had produced a simple one minute digital short. Each short was screened on an open air movie screen on the opening night of the film festival.

Oneminutesjr videos are sixty-second videos made by young people (between the ages of 12 and 20) from all over the world. Time may be limited in a oneminutesjr video (this challenges the youngsters to form their ideas clearly), but not the freedom to express oneself creatively, which is the basic right of every person.

The oneminutesjr network is a non-commercial community without any set political belief or ideology. The network gives young people, especially those who are underprivileged or marginalised, the opportunity to have their voices heard by a broad audience. To share with the world their ideas, dreams, fascinations, anxieties and viewpoints.

All the oneminutesjr video clips screened at the Luang Prabang Film Festival are available for viewing online at

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FilmAid International Projects Hope in Haiti

FilmAid provides the children of what many doctors can not bring earthquake survivors, a moment to forget about the pain and suffering the last six months has brought. Dr. Jon Lapook reports.

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Luang Prabang, Laos: Interview with Luang Prabang Film Festival Director

has no working cinema but that didn’t deter Gabriel Kuperman from becoming the founder and director of the first-ever Film Festival in December 2010. The festival of Southeast Asian films was a big hit with tourists and locals alike and is set to run again in 2011. We speak to Gabriel about the struggle to bring films from around the region to , how Lao teens got involved, his amazement at the turnout and his hope to show Lao sub-titled films at this year’s event.

has produced very few films throughout its history, has just one operating cinema in the capital Vientiane and none at all in Luang Prabang. What drove you to set up the first Luang Prabang Film Festival last year in such an apparently film-unfriendly place?

Precisely the fact that there was such a small film culture in the country is why I decided to set up this festival! The main goal of our project is to help stimulate a more active film industry here in Laos, while getting the younger generations more interested in the art form. Internationally, there have been several very positive examples of film industries that have sprouted as a result film festivals started in places without much film. It is my hope that we see the same effect here, though I recognise it might be a slow process.

Can you tell us a little about what went into setting up the outdoor festival? How much work does it involve to set up a festival from scratch?

The task of setting up a film festival in a country where few people had ever heard of such an event was no easy feat. It seems I spent as much time explaining what the festival would look like, as I did planning for it. The majority of our hurdles came as a result of limited funding, though the vision and format of our festival put a great deal of extra work on our plates as well.

You can find the full interview at

(The Open Air Cinema Foundation is an independent 501(c)3 organization that provides training in outdoor cinema technology to help educate, empower, and engage communities around the world. OACF recently partnered with the LPFF mentioned in this article to provide equipment and technical support throughout the event. Open Air Cinema works closely with the OACF to advance their mission by providing technical support, training, and volunteer technicians for OACF activities.)

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Open Air Cinema Foundation: Update from Southeast Asia

There has been a lot going on since January, so we wanted to send out an update so that you can see where we have been over the last few months and where we are going this year. We are all really excited with the direction the Open Air Cinema Foundation is going and hope that you will follow along as we move through Southeast Asia.

First off, in December we joined with the Film Festival in . It was the first festival of its kind in the UNESCO World Heritage City, and by all accounts a great success. We will have more articles coming over the next few weeks with photos and details of OACF‘s participation in the festival. The LPFF has invited us back for a larger festival next year, along with a traveling roadshow through the provinces. We’ll be there, no doubt!

Following the film festival, Blaine Johnson (OACF) teamed up with Tiana and Stirling Silliphant from the Indochina Film Arts Foundation (IFAF) on a three day ‘reconnaissance’  trip to Ponsavan Province in Laos. We were looking for ways to expand IFAF’s ongoing Bombs to Art Project and to make some links with local government authorities on a UXO risk education project that OACF is opening. The initiative would take an Open Air Cinema Foundation team through Lao provinces still affected by the bombs left over from the Indochina Wars. We would work with local de-mining groups and governments to create digital media that would be used to inform local villagers how to report unexploded ordnance that they find in their villages and fields. We would then take the educational shorts on tour through villages to be screened on our inflatable movie screens. If you are interested in learning more about this project, or would like to offer support, please contact us.

In early January, an OACF team consisting of David Farmer, Dean Adams and Blaine Johnson flew to Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam to assist the Indochina Film Arts Foundation in editing and organizing their massive collection of film and video footage. We also look forward to returning soon to Vietnam to explore more options for outdoor screenings within the country.

Some good news: Dean and Blaine have advanced to the semi-final round of the Echoing Green Fellowship. We are very excited about this opportunity and look forward to hearing in late-March whether we advance to the final round.

At the moment the OACF is gathering in Bangkok for some planning sessions, then Blaine is off to Cambodia to meet with the director of Cambofest Film Festival. We will then fly to Luang Prabang to prepare the outdoor cinema equipment for our upcoming involvement in another regional film festival in April. We will announce more details once they have been finalized.

Stay tuned!

(The Open Air Cinema Foundation is an independent 501(c)3 organization that provides training in outdoor cinema technology to help educate, empower, and engage communities around the world. Open Air Cinema works closely with the OACF to advance their mission by providing technical support, training, and volunteer technicians for OACF activities.)

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Vote for Two Open Air Cinema Entries on!

Two Open Air Cinema systems are in the running for the best Football Home Theater Contest on! The six contestants are vying for one of two Cisco Flip Ultra HD Camcorders, and whoever has the most votes will walk home with the prizes. We’re proud to see two Open Air Cinema Systems in the contest, and we’re asking the readers of the blog to vote for the Open Air Cinema systems! Here are the links to the two entries:

outdoor movies

One contestant has entered a photo of an OAC Home 16′ System, and it sure looks great! Vote for this Backyard Theater!

Another contestant submitted a photo of an OAC Pro 16′ System. This particular system was donated by Google to the Field of Dreams project and was used by an organization called Moving the Goalposts to screen the FIFA World Cup this summer to the villagers that otherwise would have not been able to view the World Cup! The system remains in for use by the local organizations. Vote for this Backyard Theater!

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Open Air Cinema Profile: Eric Kabera of the Rwanda Cinema Center

Eric Kabera of the Rwanda Cinema Center

Eric Kabera of the Cinema Center

ERIC KABERA is the Chairperson of the Rwandan Film Festival, renowned producer of ‘100 Days’, forefather of the Rwanda Cinema Center and many young film makers in Rwanda attribute their success to him. The reason being: ‘His work has yielded fruits’.

Since the inception of Rwanda Cinema Center in 2001, Kabera has trained people on how to produce films for a period of three years. His hard work later materialized with the introduction of the Rwanda Film Festival which was officially launched in 2005.

Kabera said: “I had watched several movies produced in Rwanda by foreigners and the idea of the local people producing their own movies clicked in my mind thus leading to the formation of the Rwanda Film Center.”

“Like any humble beginnings, the organisation (Rwanda Cinema Center) was started within my house but later with the help of different parties like; Ministry of Sports and Culture, SIDA, NPA and several others, it become productive.”

“It was the passion and desire to give something to the countrymen that drove me into starting the center.”

During this year’s 6th Edition of the Rwanda Film Festival, amazing short movies and comedies produced by locally upcoming movie directors and producers portray the fabulous work conducted at the Rwanda Cinema Center.

Celebrated’ is this year’s theme according to Kabera, ‘one can celebrate even their challenges’.

He has produced over ten independent movies and his favorite is ‘Ingali lwa Alphose’ (Alphose’s bicycle). ‘Africa United’ is Kabera’s upcoming adventure movie yet to be released in September this year.

Born on July 5th, 1970 in Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo to Mr. Pheneas Kabera and Mrs. Immaculate Niyonambaje, Eric Kabera is one of the last siblings in the Kabera family.

He attended primary school at Primarie Karisimbi, Keshero Secondary School, Goma Institute of Education where he attained a Diploma in Education and Child Psychology.

After dropping out of a Law School (Institute of Faculty of Law in Goma) he came to Rwanda in 1994 and worked as a Freelance Journalist for several Media Houses such as the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and Writers Agency.

“I extensively worked with several foreign Media Houses after the 1994 Genocide against Tutsi, the Writers Agency  in 1997 offered a special course in London regarding Media broadcast, writing International News which I participated in and attained a certificate,” Kabera explained.

“ I embarked on making documentary films and in 1998 I teamed up with Nik Huges of Vivid Features and made the first Genocide film ‘100 Days’ which I produced,” he said.

In 2000 Kabera went to Hollywood for a special training in Post Production, Directing and Editing with top Hollywood Producers and Directors.

“Although the course was expensive since it cost $250 per class and they were ten of them, I came back with the idea of strengthening the film industry in Rwanda hence the beginning of the long journey,” the enthusiastic Kabera explained.

Besides being a movie maker, Eric Kabera is a family man—he is married to Alice Migonne Kabera and they are blessed with three lovely children; a boy and two girls, Emika, Erica and Celeb respectively.

With the spirit of Eric Kabera, many are tutored and daily Rwanda’s Film Industry is heading towards a brighter future.


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Nairobi, Kenya: Open Air Screenings of Togetherness Supreme in Kibera Slums

Open Air Community Screenings

In cooperation with FilmAid International and with funding from the Royal Netherlands Embassy in Nairobi, the Hot Sun Foundation is organizing outdoor community screenings of Togetherness Supreme in ’s largest slums. The equipment used for these screenings include a 20′ inflatable movie screen and projector donated to FilmAid International by Open Air Cinema. For more information about these screenings please visit the Hot Sun Foundation’s website, or read the summary below.

The Hot Sun Foundation

Social transformation through media and art is the vision of the Hot Sun Foundation. Their mission is to educate, develop talents, and train youth and children from the slums so that they can tell their own stories. We want their stories to travel far to inspire other slum dwellers around the globe. We want to create role models and leaders. We believe that media and art can enable slum dwellers to reshape their lives and bring about social transformation.

Togetherness Supreme

Togetherness Supreme is the story of Kamau, an artist, Otieno, a hustler, and Alice, a preacher’s daughter, whom both Kamau and Otieno fall in love with. All three live in , east Africa’s largest slum, home to a million people in Nairobi, . All three are from different tribes but are searching for tribal unity. During the 2007 presidential elections their community is torn apart by violence and conflicting tribal loyalties. Their story, set against a backdrop of tyranny, is a beacon of hope in an unjust world.

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Program to Bring FIFA World Cup, Technology and Life Skills to Kenyan Youth

Google Internet Classroom Brings Skills to Kenyan Youth

Open Air Cinema & Google Internet Classroom

Google's Internet Classroom in ,

Each evening during the World Cup, the remote village of Kilifi, Kenya is lit up by a giant inflatable Open Air Cinema movie screen. Hundreds of villagers watch the World Cup games as they are beamed in by satellite as part of a special educational event called Kenya Field of Dreams.

Kenya Field of Dreams is supported by a non-profit organization in Kenya called Moving the Goalposts (MTG), which uses soccer and other innovative programs to educate girls and young women, helping them to fulfill their potential both on and off the field. The event is designed to instruct villagers, specifically the local girls, about technologies and empower them to share their stories and expand their horizons.

During the day, girls from several schools around the area attend workshops at the MTG Centre to learn how to use the Internet and receive other skills training.

Stuart Farmer, founder of Open Air Cinema, went to Kenya to train some of the female footballers from MTG on how to use the outdoor cinema system.

“This village in eastern Kenya is so remote, the people don’t even have access to television,” Farmer said. “Thanks to the generous support of Google, which is donating the outdoor cinema equipment to MTG, the people have had an educational and entertaining experience that will not end when the World Cup finals are over. With these newly trained young technicians in Kenya, the outdoor cinema system will benefit Kilifi and the surrounding community for years to come.”

Open Air Cinema has been instrumental in bringing outdoor cinema to communities throughout including , , Zimbabwe, Uganda, Tanzania, and South Africa.

For photos and more information about the programs, please visit:
Moving the Goalposts website
Kenya Field of Dreams blog
Open Air Cinemas photo album

About Open Air Cinema
Open Air Cinema is the premier global supplier of outdoor cinema equipment. Open Air Cinema has taken its expertise in outdoor productions to produce the highest quality, most concise, easiest to use, theatrical-grade outdoor theater systems on the market. It is also a leading innovator in providing developing nations with educational outdoor screens and open air cinema equipment.

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BBC Reports on World Cup Screenings in Kenya

To hear the story skip the player to 21.34

BBC Reports on World Cup Screenings in ,

For weeks now countless millions of us have been captivated by the World Cup. There have been moments of extraordinary passion and excitement, triumph and defeat. And the cameras can bring every second of the drama right into your living room…that is, as long as you’ve got a television. Because there are still places that are largely beyond the reach of television, places where they’ve seen nothing of the World Cup. But BBC correspondent Annie Caulfield watched salvation come to one lucky village in Kenya.

To hear the story skip the player to 21.34

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Entertaining the Audience Before the World Cup Screening

Open Air Cinema’s founder, Stuart Farmer, has been in with Google and the Field of Dreams project. He is helping train the students at the Moving the Goalpost school in operating and maintaining a 16′ CineBox system donated by Google and the Field of Dreams project. Stuart provides the following update to his work.

It’s nice to see how quick the Kenyan people enjoy themselves with dancing and singing. At every event the students grab the mic to create impromptu dance parties. Due to the games being rear projected, the girls can’t hear their karaoke voices very well as they stand behind the speakers, which are pointed at the audience. Once in a while the girls turn up the volume on the mixer so they can better hear their own singing. They’re not realizing that the sound is becoming extremely loud up front, blasting the audience! We have a good laugh as we fight to control the volume knob. I keep saying, “those cute little kids up front! you’ll make them deaf!”

I’m impressed by the natural MC talent here in . The girls are becoming more bold and confident at addressing the audience at each subsequent event. Nearly every time, Janet invites local kids up to take the mic, such as the two boys in this video freestylin’ for the crowd.

It’s great to get a chance to listen to the local African pop music. A couple days into the project, I asked our driver to take me into town to get the best music. We went to a little shack lined with tapes and obviously pirated CD’s. I brought back 8 handmade CDR’s full of MP3‘s and .wav files. I loaded them into the laptop and transferred them onto the iPad. At the event, the girls looked at me with surprise when I opened a playlist on the iPad with hundreds of songs that they all know and love. So that’s our music, all their own stuff. We make sure to play it before every event. Outdoor cinema is a celebration — you gotta have some thumping good music to get people in the mood. I’m glad I could pick up the music. I have a feeling I’m not going to find these artists on iTunes. Who knows. As for now, I won’t go home without Lucky Dube’s Greatest Hits.

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Time Lapse of Open Air Screen in Kilifi, Kenya

The Field of Dreams team has posted some timelapsed video footage of the installation of their Open Air Cinema screen in Mnarani football field in . The footage was taken over a period of 2 hours as the team set up the CineBox system for a screening of World Cup football matches to local villagers.

Stuart Farmer from Open Air Cinema has been in Kenya training a team of young local girls to operate the CineBox system. In cooperation with Google and the Moving the Goalposts program the girls have passed through the training courses and are now setting up the inflatable screen by themselves every night.

You can see how excited the children are as they mug for the camera while impatiently waiting for the outdoor projector to light up. Also watch for the downpour of monsoon rain about half way through.

For more information visit

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OAC CineBox Used by Google and UNICEF to Bring World Cup Finals to Africa

As the World Cup Finals approach, it’s hard to imagine a place that has not yet been infected with FIFA Fever. Even in the most remote villages in the most distant corners of the world, locals keep score while honking their vuvuzelas in support of their favorite team.

It is of course no small feat to bring the World Cup games to football fans in locations with limited access to television and the Internet. Over the past few months Open Air Cinema has been working with several partners to assist in bringing the FIFA World Cup to remote African villages. In the video above you can see how UNICEF has used Open Air Screens to broadcast live football to football fans in . These screenings combined with journalism workshops for local youth will open windows to the world for thousands who normally do not have access to international media. Over the next week we will follow UNICEF as they set their inflatable screens up in the sands of and light up the desert sky with their CineBox projection system.

We will also be taking you to the eastern coast of to follow our own Stuart Farmer (Founder of Open Air Cinema) as he continues his work with Google and the Field of Dreams to screen the World Cup Finals in villages along the coast of .

Stay tuned to the Open Air Cinema blog to hear more about these exciting programs!

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UNICEF Uses Open Air Cinema Screens to Bring World Cup to Zambia

Open Air Cinema in Zambia

Photo Credit: UNICEF: World Cup in My Village


UNICEF Uses Open Air Cinema Screens to Bring World Cup to Remote Zambian Villages

NAMUSHAKA, , 2 July 2010 – More than 600 km from ’s capital, Lusaka, the local school’s sandy football pitch is being converted to a soccer fan park. Football fever is hitting even the most remote villages in as the FIFA World Cup is played for the first time on the continent.

An Open Air Cinema inflatable movie screen comes to life as a generator powers the engine that blows air into it. A team of technicians working for a local Zambian non-governmental organization, Sports for Action, has been trained to set up the projector to beam the international football matches live.

The screening is made possible by the ‘World Cup in My Village’ initiative organized by UNICEF, the Children’s Radio Foundation and local partners. The initiative channels the power of football – not only to beam this global sporting event to poor and far-flung communities, but also to tap into the talents of young people in order to raise awareness about key social issues.

Issues of concern

As the sun sets on this community of a couple of thousand people, local children gather, giddy with the thrill of seeing whether Ghana – the only African team to qualify to round two of the FIFA World Cup 2010 – can beat the United States.

Under a full moon, they huddle together to keep warm. As Ghana scores its victory, there is no doubt where their loyalty lies. Pan-African solidarity erupts into jubilation.

Inonge Sitali, 14, a ninth-grade student, is one of 17 Zambian young people here who have just undergone intensive training in radio techniques. They are using the matches to discuss issues of concern in their communities, holding talk shows before each game is screened.

“We have been able to learn how to use the recorder, how to interview people and we also learned how to make a good story,” says Inonge, who lives in the provincial capital, Mongu, and is now eager to become a journalist.

Using radio to foster dialogue

“It’s a social mobilization tool that brings people together, and then it’s easier to start talking about social issues,” notes Children’s Radio Foundation workshop coordinator George Githuma. As a Kenyan, he understands the power of football in Africa and has been working with the children to produce their radio pieces.

“We work with the youth journalists,” adds Mr. Githuma, “to find out what are some of the social issues in the community – what they think about poverty, what do they think about education, what do they think about HIV and AIDS?”

He is convinced that empowering young people with skills to tell stories and discuss their problems can have a big influence on a community, especially in a culture where children don’t usually have a chance to speak out. “Talking about a problem is the first step in solving it and creating dialogue,” says Mr. Githuma. “Young people trained with radio skills can create the vehicles for finding these solutions.”

Focus on education

The youth journalists interview people before the matches and produce short radio stories that are broadcast on local community stations. One of the biggest concerns they have been hearing about is education.

Although Zambia introduced free basic education in 2002, for many rural families the distance to school – as well as costs of uniforms and books – can make attendance difficult. Drop-out rates are high. In response, World Cup in My Village has allied with 1GOAL, a football-centred education campaign, in an effort to get every child into primary school.

Esther Kalenga, 17, one of the young journalists trained by the Children’s Radio Foundation, is now her final year of secondary school. She says she has been shocked at the extent of teenage pregnancy in many rural communities.

“These girls feel they have no way to go back to school,” she says during a panel discussion with other young people on a popular Sunday talk show. “The money they need for staying in the classroom is instead now needed to care for the babies. I think education is very important, because education is the only way to succeed in life.”

Opportunity of a lifetime

As another football match approaches, the inflatable screen is set up on a hill overlooking the Bartose floodplains, 25 km from the Zambezi River, which flows across southern Africa. More crowds of people face the winter chill to sit on the grass and marvel at the technology being set up before them.

The youth journalists call more people to come over, using the amplification system to start a discussion about the role of teachers in education. Eager to engage, children wait their turn to express opinions about how to improve the quality of their classrooms.

Then the match begins. Despite their isolation, and the fact that electricity and televisions sets are rare in western Zambia, even the youngest children here know the names of Africa’s best players and aspire to be like them. World Cup in My Village has given them a chance to see their heroes play. For many, it is the opportunity of a lifetime.

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