Academic launches isiZulu COVID-19 animated film for Children

Dr Maud Mthembu (left) hands Professor Matshepo Matoane (Dean of the School of Applied Human Sciences) a copy of her isiZulu book for children.
Dr Maud Mthembu (left) hands Professor Matshepo Matoane (Dean of the School of Applied Human Sciences) a copy of her isiZulu book for children.

Social Work senior lecturer Dr Maud Mthembu has produced a short isiZulu animated film for children. The film is based on her book about COVID-19 titled: Uhambo lwami ngesikhathi sekhovithi – My journey during COVID-19.

The ten-minute film tells the story of Nsimu, a ten-year-old child whose family was affected by COVID-19 and the impact the disease had on the family.  The story is told from Nsimu’s perspective and is intended for children aged six and older. It has subtitles in all South African languages and is used by non-government organisations in different communities in their child protection work.

Social workers and teachers used the book as a tool to help children share their journeys during COVID-19; however, children who could not read were left out unless someone read to them.

Said Mthembu

‘Children enjoy animation and this was a cost-effective method to reach more children. Animation can also be used as a tool to initiate conversations with children about their personal life journeys during the time of COVID-19 and to teach them about the virus. Children need a platform to share these experiences and identify the type and form of support they need.’

She noted that caregivers in many families have experienced anxiety and distress as a result of COVID-19 and children observe these tensions.

‘Caregivers tend to avoid talking about difficult feelings and events because they want to protect children from distress. Others don’t know how to start such conversations. Animation can be used as a starting point to explore all family members’ personal stories.  It is a child friendly resource that facilitates reflection and sharing of experiences and feelings as a family. We must come up with innovative methods to protect the psychological well-being of our children,’ said Mthembu.


She believes that the use of vernacular language brings the story alive, promoting inclusivity and social cohesion. ‘The use of IsiZulu was intentional in that as UKZN, we are committed to promoting the language that is widely spoken in the province. The story told in the book and animation is deeply rooted in the socio-cultural context of KwaZulu-Natal. It is therefore our responsibility to ensure that it is shared in IsiZulu. Children love hearing stories in their language and we want them to grow up with a sense of pride in speaking and reading their language.’

Mthembu hopes to obtain funding to make additional episodes ‘so that we can continue to tell the journey and adventures of children through the life of Nsimu. The book is now into the 7th language. We are already conceptualising a follow-up one about Nsimu’s journey.’

The video is available free of charge from Uhambo Lwami on the following link:

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