Theatres can be a powerful tool in edutainment

EDITOR — Theatre has the potential for being a democratic medium, in which the audiences may play an active role in medium-programming, and therefore in producing and distributing messages. 
It is not centralised like the technological media, and is capable of integrating indigenous and popular systems of communication that already exists in the rural areas.

It has appropriate technology, since all its needs is human resources, which are plentiful in the villages. It is capable of being more effective since it uses interpersonal channels that have been found to have more impact than the mediated channels of electronic and print media.

According to Tawanda Chisango, edutainment is the process of purposely designing and implementing a media message to both entertain and educate, in order to increase audience members’ knowledge about an issue, create favourable attitude, shift social norms, and change the overt behaviour of individuals and communities.

The larger purpose of edutainment programmes is to contribute to the process of direct social change, which can occur at the individuals, community, or societal level. The edutainment strategy contributes to social change in two ways. It can influence audience awareness, attitudes, and behaviours towards a socially desirable end.

The anticipated effects are located in the individual audience members. In HIV/Aids programmes this includes urging individuals to adopt HIV prevention behaviours such as using condoms, abstinence or reducing the number of sexual partners to one.
Edutainment can also influence the audience’s external environment to help create the necessary conditions for social change at the group or system level. Here the major effects are located in the interpersonal and social-political spheres of the audience members’ environment.

It can serve as a social mobilise, an advocate, or agenda-setter, influencing public and policy initiatives in a sexually desirable direction. 

The appeal of edutainment comes from its narrative approach, which is not perceived as preachy or didactic by audience members. 
Edutainment consists of highly complex narratives with various protagonists and antagonists, plots and sub-plots, conflicts and resolutions. Such narratives, designed with the use of formative research, are perceived by audience members as more coherent, believable and involving, than straightforward rationale.

The successful edutainment Zimbabwean play, Narratives from the Dark, is an empowering theatrical stage play which addresses issues of disability and the challenges people facing any form of stigma, prejudice or discrimination. 

Attracting audiences with humour, celebrity, and the emotional trials and tribulations of characters, edutainment can help audiences identify risk behaviour and visualise change. 

Edutainment can play an important role in communicating health massages when communities find it difficult to be explicit about sensitive topics like sexuality.
L K.

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