A London-based mum of two has created Tuntimo, a new online interactive educational platform focusing on Black history learning content for children aged 5-11.
Oriana Gowie, a Talent and Recruitment Manager and Cultural Expert, launched Tuntimo last month and hopes her fun and engaging platform will be the go-to source for information on Black history for families of all races, as well as a learning tool for schools and other educational facilities.
With more than 200 profiles, 200 quizzes, puzzles, games and word searches and 2,000 questions to help learning, Tuntimo hopes to engage children on a range of topics around Black British and African history, including famous celebrities, sports stars and athletes, acclaimed authors, poets, inventors, scientists, astronauts, former kings and queens of tribes and countries.
Tuntimo has been developed with a mostly volunteer team of historians, teachers and professionals, and includes a range of fun illustrations, animations, games and quizzes for children to get involved with.
Earlier this month, we interviewed Tuntimo founder, Oriana Gowie, to learn more about her platform and her journey of creating such an important learning platform.
Why did you create the Tuntimo platform?
Last year, I was rocked to the core by the events which took place in the US with the murder of George Floyd. How is it that in the 21st century, a person can be murdered for the colour of their skin? How is it that some people can carry around so much hatred and fear to commit this heinous act? I started to consider all the past racial experiences I had, and when I spoke of this with other family members and friends in general who were Black, they recounted their experiences too. It brought a collective sense of pain, despite this incident taking place thousands of miles overseas. I wanted to know what I could do to alleviate some of the pain across the Black communities. Encouraged by my husband, I began to search for positive stories about Black communities, I needed to tell my children that our stories are not just about suffering and discrimination.
“Tuntimo is a combination of two words from different African languages. Tuntum – means Black in Twi (Ghanian) + imo – means knowledge in Yoruba (Nigerian)”
I wanted my children to be proud of who they are, what they could be and to tell them to dream big. This meant, building a foundation and a sense of identity in who they are. It meant looking and understanding their history and not just about the civil rights movement and the transatlantic slave trade, but about kings and queens, empires, dynasties, inventors, writers, and other world changers.
I looked around for a fun and interactive digital platform that I could use to support my children’s understanding of Black history and was disappointed by the lack of online resources available for British families with young children. I knew I had to do something to fill this gap. I started with the name Children’s Black History, but I wanted a name that reflected that it was for children in a fun and catchy way. This was when I came up with the name Tuntimo. Tuntimo is a combination of two words from different African languages. Tuntum – means Black in Twi (Ghanian) which is my background + imo – means knowledge in Yoruba (Nigerian). My goal was to make learning fun and interactive, and to change the current narrative around Black history.
“I feel Tuntimo is a true reflection of what I would have wanted to have access to growing up and my creativity.”
How hands-on was the creation experience for you?
I was really hands-on and was able to use this as a distraction from a very strange period of being in lockdown, home schooling and being encouraged at work to share and talk about experiences as a Black woman. I guess as a family it was a big school project and distraction for us. I was able to apply my project management experience to apply it to this project.
I designed the platform and commissioned all the pictures and expressed what I wanted the characters to look like, their outfits and how I wanted them to fit in with the site. I feel Tuntimo is a true reflection of what I would have wanted to have access to growing up and my creativity. I have been really specific about colour and illustrations because I wanted the platform to be different from what already existed, something bright and engaging.
I couldn’t have done it alone though; I have had amazing support from volunteers who have been instrumental in creating the content on the platform. This includes teachers, content writers, parents and children. I have paid for services and have been able to negotiate discounts where possible to keep costs low.
To get the site up and running has been a huge challenge due to limited resources but I have had the support of volunteers and people who have offered their services at a discount.
What support have you had in creating Tuntimo?
To create this platform, I reached out to family, friends and organisations, to ask for volunteers and to raise funds. I felt really inspired and blessed by all the help I received. We were able to raise 25% of our target through the GoFundMe and the rest of the site has been self-funded.
Our mission was to develop an innovative digital space. Our platform is a fun and interactive educational resource, including illustrations, animations, games and quizzes on a range of topics, centred around Black British and African history. We want children and young people to explore, question and learn about the rich legacy of Black history, through activities that are developmentally appropriate, incorporate effective teaching strategies, and help build a strong foundation of essential concepts and skills important for early childhood learners.
We knew to do this successfully; we needed to engage the services of a professional web design agency or designer to work alongside our dedicated volunteers.
Tuntimo is part of a non-profit organisation offering information, activities and games that empower children to learn at their own pace at home or in the classroom. The current website created by Tuntimo CIC is available all year round on a free-to-access basis.
“We want children and young people to explore, question and learn about the rich legacy of Black history…”
Can you tell us about the quizzes, puzzles and games for the site?
The platform allows for children to navigate independently or with their parents to learn about history and build their self-confidence. I wanted the platform to support children with different learning styles and interests. I designed each game to offer children a different learning experience to aid their learning and make it interactive and fun. I know games is a big part of learning for children aged 5 – 11 years old.
I strategically placed the games to force children to go through a Black icon or topic to at least learn or see something significant before being able to play a game. This was based on research and my son often wanting to play the games on the platform.
How have your sons reacted to Tuntimo?
For me my two sons are Tuntimo. They are the very reason why I have worked long hours on the site but it’s for children that it was created for. In fact, they have been key to the images, music and so many aspects of Tuntimo. They really like the site, but they often want to play or sing along to the theme song (which has yet to be released). We have had fun building Tuntimo and my son will often say something and say or ask ‘mum that would be good for Tuntimo’ or ‘mum is that for Tuntimo’ or ‘is that from Tuntimo’?
What has been the public response to Tuntimo?
The response has been amazing! People have mentioned that it is a refreshing take on Black history, designed for the age group and overdue. It was nice for us as a volunteer team to see something we have all been working on finally come to life and for people to be excited and feel good about a resource they can use. This is parents and teachers alike. I have received messages, pictures and videos from parents saying thank you and how much they love the site. They have also shared their children’s work from using the site and shared conversations they have had with their children. We have had a lot of visits and signs ups.
“Black history tends to be pitched at an academic level which is inaccessible for children.”
How can Tuntimo complement the lack of Black history taught in schools?
Black history in schools tends to focus on the suffering and injustice Black people have suffered – which are important topics, but far from the full story. Generally, Black history tends to be pitched at an academic level which is inaccessible for children.
In addition, a lot of Black history content in UK schools is focused on the United States, or African American individuals. As our team is based in the UK, we also want to celebrate forgotten and neglected names in Black British history. Children are being taught about a few topics during Black history, but this is not in context and limited. For example, have you heard of Walter Tull, one of Britain’s first Black professional footballers and the first Black officer to lead white British soldiers into battle? Or Pauline Henriques, the first Black female actress for British television and the first Black female Justice of the Peace? If the answer is no, you’re not alone – but as we can all agree, these names deserved to be remembered! Tuntimo makes this possible for all children, everywhere.
What are your future goals for the site?
The majority of this platform has been delivered through volunteering hours and an initial crowdsource funding which raised £5,000 that was used to pay for areas where we couldn’t get volunteers and technology. With the right people, and further sponsorship which I’m currently seeking, I would like to create a truly bespoke platform to enable more interactivity for children and families. This would be a faster custom-built platform with a variety of games. Currently the platform is configured for use on a laptop/computer, but our analytics tell us that most users are accessing the website on their phones, so we need to configure for phone usage and ideally create an app. We have more planned, but we keep this under wraps for now.
To do this work, we will need sponsors to help widen the reach and user experience in phase two development. We are grateful to receive donations of any level as we couldn’t have got this far without our amazing donors.
We love to see it, a platform that joyfully celebrates Black excellence throughout history, showing children (and parents!) how Black people and communities have contributed to the world.
If you’d like to donate to support the platform, visit the Tuntimo’s GoFundMe page.