Edutainment that lifts the soul

2010-03-19 13:55

WHEN the first episode of Soul City aired on CCV-TV in May 1994, audiences thought the show was too provocative and touched on taboo issues.

Fast forward to 2010, the edutainment programme is heading into its 10th season and is among the most-watched shows on TV, having amassed six million viewers last season.

Dr Garth Japhet was a medical doctor in Alexandra, Johannesburg, at the time of conceiving the ­series. He realised that most of his patients returned for treatment on the same conditions because they had little knowledge about staying healthy. “The number one cause of child death at that point was diarrhoea,” he says on the website ­

Because of this, Japhet, together with Dr Shereen Usdin, developed what we now know as Soul City. The programme would be educational and address common problems that people face while exploring cultural barriers that sometimes prevent them from making healthy choices.

Over the years the Soul City Institute (SCI) has created social awareness, changed viewers’ perceptions about health issues and supplied them with information on issues such as sex and domestic abuse. The non-profit organisation runs the Soul City series and other health education projects.

It started projects such as the Soul Buddyz series, in broadcast and print, which has reached 90% of children between the ages of eight and 15 in SA.

They also run health educationprojects including last season’s OneLove campaign Action4Children, Kwanda: communities with soul, The Untold series and Buddyz on the Move.

Soul City’s revolutionary methods of teaching through entertainment using broadcast and print led to 83% of those exposed to the programmes saying they were now willing to help people on ARV treatment. At least 31% of the people had taken an HIV test in the preceding year and the use of condoms to prevent HIV had increased by up to 8%.

Besides its social contribution, the show has groomed acting talents such as Connie Ferguson, Sonia Sedibe, Hakeem Kae Kazim, Patrick Ndlovu, Zandile Msutwana and Mxolisi Majozi better known as Zuluboy, to name but a few.

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