Learning by Ear asked listeners to submit stories about a personal event or a situation that has affected their lives. The first prize goes to Bouloufèi Bèwèzima and his group from Togo for their entry.
Living in poverty, two parents struggle to take care of all of their seven children. The children’s aunt promises to take two boys with her and raise them. But instead, she sends the young boys to Nigeria to work and pockets the wages herself.
That is the beginning of the winning story submitted by Bouloufèi Bèwèzima and his group, who hail from Togo’s capital, Lomé. Bouloufèi’s story has a happy ending but, the author says, the lives of trafficked children do not always work out so happily.
“Every year, we see children drop out from school to go to work in Nigeria and other places, for a bicycle, a motorcycle or a sewing machine," Bouloufèi said on the phone from Lomé. "Some of them disappear and are never seen again."
Stories inspired by daily life
Like many of the 36 entries from 15 different African countries, this story was inspired by true events. The most popular issues were the importance of education, the difficulty of dealing with family conflicts, unwanted pregnancy and children’s and women’s rights. The latter was the theme of the runner-up team, "Tsanaga –Jeunesse“, a group of friends from North Cameroon. Their story was inspired by the plight of girls who are forced into early marriage.
The third prize was awarded to the "Zvandiri Youth Advocacy Team", which is made up of children and adolescents living with HIV. The team from Zimbabwe advocates an end to stigma and discrimination against people with HIV and AIDS. Writing the story for the Learning by Ear competition helped them to deal with their own problems.
"We are facing stigma in schools, even in the homes that we live," explained Loyce Maturu, a member of the group, on the phone. "So we tried to highlight all of the places where HIV positive children and adolescents are experiencing discrimination and stigmatization."
Topics that matter
The ability to address difficult topics is what has made Learning by Ear extremely popular all over the African continent. The wide range of themes submitted in the latest Learning by Ear competition shows, though, that there are many more issues to tackle.
Zainab Mohammed Abubakar, who works for DW's Hausa Desk, was one of the five competition jurors. For her, judging the stories on aspects such as their creativity and relevance was a tough job simply because there were so many good ideas. But the winning story about trafficking of children was her favorite.
"It is a very important topic for young people because this is a common problem in many African countries, especially when you look at the poor backgrounds of many people who are struggling to have a better life," she said.
A theater workshop for the winning group
The chronicle of the two trafficked young boys will inspire a new Learning by Ear series in 2013 which will be broadcast on the radio and on the Internet. In addition to this, the story will be adapted as a theater play and staged by the winning group, together with the Learning by Ear team. The première of the play is planned for autumn 2012 in Lomé.
But even if there can only be one Learning by Ear competition winner, the third placed “Zvandiri Youth Advocacy Team” have no doubts about the quality of their story – they are already planning the performance of their play about an HIV couple in Harare.