Sesame Street for a New Generation? Social Emotional Learning with Akili and Me


This is one in a series of four articles exploring the use of early childhood development messages in children’s television programming.

Ubongo Meets IDELA

Designed in part around IDELA competencies, Ubongo, a Pan-African social enterprise aimed at significantly improving school readiness and learning outcomes for kids through localized edutainment, developed and tested fifty-two episodes of a new television series called Akili and Me. Akili and Me covers all four domains measured by IDELA: motor development, social-emotional development, emergent literacy and emergent numeracy.

A randomized control trail using IDELA was conducted to assess the impact of Akili and Me  on pre-primary children. The study took place in nine government primary schools in Morogoro, Tanzania where the children selected for the study were between the ages of 4 and 5 years old, spoke Kiswahili as a first language and from a low or middle-income families. IDELA assessments were done before and after four weeks of viewing the show.

The Role of Social Emotional Development in Early Childhood Development

The earliest years of a child’s life are critical in learning and developing the skills necessary to better succeed in school and in life. Social emotional development is about how children experience and express their emotions, gain an understanding of who they are, learn how to interact with others and establish and sustain meaningful relationships – skills crucial for school readiness.  Positive social emotional development  influences how children will function at school, home, and within their community (Department of Mental Health, n.d)

Social Emotional Development Through Television

Skills measured within the social emotional domains in IDELA include peer relationships, emotional awareness, empathy/perspective taking, self-awareness and conflict resolution. Akili and Me offers several episodes that incorporate these skills and tasks. The show is centered on a 4-year-old cartoon character named Akili, who lives at the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro with her family. In her dreams, she embarks on adventures alongside her animal friends where they learn about coping with emotions and practicing kindness in a magical world called “Lala Land”.

Multiple episodes engage with social emotional learning. “Akili and Sad Hippo” is about what it means to be sad and how to deal with a sad friend, “Angry Akili” is an episode about how Akili copes with anger when her little brother destroys her doll, and in “Little Lion Loses”  Akili helps her friend calm down and control his anger after losing a race. Targeted towards children in the pre-primary ages of 3-5, Akili and Me is broadcast on free television, radio, apps,  and Youtube, and is offered in Kiswahili, English, Kinyarwanda, and Thai.

To learn more about Akili and Me’s impact on child participants click here


Department of Mental Health. (n.d.). What is Social & Emotional Development? Retrieved from July 8, 2019.