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Wallace and Gromit bring movie dream to South African children

Children in South Africa are a step closer to a real career in movies as the nation opens its first animation school in one of it largest and most dangerous townships.

Aardman Animations, The makers of the hit feature length animations starring inventor Wallace and his dog, Gromit, this week open the country's first public animation academy in the sprawling Khayelitsha township on the outskirts of Cape Town. The company’s co-founder, David Sproxton, has chosen to set up the academy at the False Bay Good Hope College in an area full of ramshackle low-cost housing, known for poverty and violence. Half the people living their struggle to find enough money to get themselves one meal a day. Violent gangs run riot and school attendance is poor. But a shortage of local animators, and Cape Town's growing reputation as a cheap place to make films, and mean that young people Khayelitsha can now dream of a future in the film industry. "There are 900,000 people living in this area and most of them are unemployed," Gary Kachelhoffer, the academy's principal, told the Guardian newspaper.

Because the colleges that train people in the film industry are in the centre of town and students need money to pay tuition fees and get there, most of the skilled people in the South African film industry are white. "So we decided it would be a good idea to set up a course in a township," said Gary Kachelhoffer. And he expects there to be jobs for most of the students by the end of the course. "We now need the industry to come to the party and I expect they will, simply because they need staff," he said.

Anele Siwa, is among 120 students who started a one-year course at the academy this week. The 20 year-old will get a full 20,000 rand (£1,800) bursary. "As South Africans, we really need our own stories in the vernacular languages," he said. "At the moment, we are stuck with watching Japanese and American cartoons," he said. Worldwide, there’s a shortage of animators, said Arthur Sheriff, the head of communications at Aardman Animations. "We have not defined exactly what Aardman's involvement with the Khayelitsha course will be, but one could imagine one of the students coming to our studios in Bristol for an internship, or one of our animators coming to Khayelitsha to give a master class," he said.

By Hayley Jarvis for SOS Children