JAPAN PRIZE 2006 : Program Details

Special Prizes
The UNICEF Prize
Program Title: Inspirations: A West African Story
Organization: Teachers TV
Country: United Kingdom
After being displaced by civil war in Liberia in West Africa, thousands of people are trying to survive terrible poverty in a refugee camp in Ghana. Many families do not have money for school fees and uniforms and their children go without an education. One man, Karrus Hayes, wanted to change this situation. With the help of a group of American volunteers who provided both money and labor, he opened the Carolyn A Miller elementary school, which does not charge any fees.
The school faces many difficulties. Although it has electric lights and fans, it has yet to be connected to the electrical grid. Its classrooms are overcrowded and some inadequately trained teachers cannot control their classes. While trying to teach the children about the atrocities of war, Hayes also faces financial difficulties in maintaining the school. He brings in a new principal to help support his valiant efforts to keep the school running.
Jury Comment
A West African Story is a powerful documentary, aiming at teachers. Its objective is to show teachers what it is like to work in a school with extremely poor resources, where children and adults are living under hard conditions.
In a refugee camp in Ghana we find the Carolyn Miller primary school. It was established by an enthusiastic teacher, himself an inhabitant of the camp. He wanted to bring a sense of meaning to the lives of the children in the camp. The film illustrates the struggle for the survival of the school and we also see the touching and committed way in which theatre acting is used, in order to neutralize traumatic experiences in children and in their parents.
The jury appreciated the capacity of the film-maker to catch the enthusiasm of the children and of the teacher, as well as their will to change, and also his capacity to show other teachers and parents of the target group, how children who are living under such difficult circumstances are still full of impressive power and pride.
In addition to this, the film was made with technical perfection and dramatic skill.
Producer's Comments
Nancy Platt

It's quite extraordinary to find an active Parent Teacher Association, rehearsals for a drama production, and teacher training sessions at a school where children and staff are going hungry all day.  But this is the value people place on education at Buduburam refugee camp - its food of a more important kind. They make sacrifices for it, because they want to educate their children to go back one day and rebuild Liberia. Their determination is impressive and moving, and, as so often in the developing world, makes us shamefully aware of how much we take education for granted. So it's fitting that the portrayal of their struggle has won a prize in a competition where education is the focus. We're very grateful for the recognition implicit in this award, of the filmmaking, but mostly of the inspirational struggle for education going on in the camp, and in so many parts of the world.