Thursday, December 8, 2011

A New Street is Being paved in Pakistan: Sesame Street!

Ever since I wrote my post on Foreign Aid that I found in Project Censored 2012, I've been noticing how much the topic of Foreign Aid comes up.  This morning after my 8am class I started my Thursday morning routine, I get coffee, fire up the computer, and read BBC News. Today I saw the articled "Puppet power as Sesame Street arrives in Lahore" with a large picture of Elmo and the puppet cast next to it.  I had to read it!

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has given $10 million dollars to a four-year project that brings the show Sesame Street to Pakistan.   The government is hoping that the program will teach lessons in tolerance and mutual respect to the target audience, 4 to 8 year olds. 
“This is a project being created by Pakistani people, for Pakistani children. Our hope is that it will be seen as a gift to children, something that is Pakistan’s own.”  Says Charlotte Cole the Vice President of International Education at Sesame Workshop.

 The Rafi Peer Theatre Workshop Producers insisted that the US did not write the script nor have any other involvement other than funding.  Making this a fully Pakistani production. Sesame Workshop will be partnering with TOLOT TV and LEMAR TV, who are "the most potent media for reaching the children in Afghanistan". (Sesame Workshop). According to an article released by Sesame Workshop, there are nearly 5 million children who are under 5 years old, and out of 5 million a very small percentage of these children are educated in a school, they hope that this program will make up for those unable to attend school. 

What the show will be like

Roni, the lead of the show
The show will take pace in a Pakistani Village with a tea-stall and Banyan tree and will be called Baghch -e- Sinsin, that translates into Sesame Garden.   Elmo is the only US Character that will remain on the show. Other than Elmo, the rest of the characters of the show are all new, the cast of Muppet characters include Billy the donkey who wants to become a famous singer and the star of the show, Rani who is a six year old girl with pigtails.  "The creators hope the strong female lead will send a message to the next generation in this conservative society - especially girls."

The show will not only teach children about tolerance, but also math, literacy, school readiness and life skills, in particular on girls education, diversity and cultural awareness.  Faizan Peerzada, the production company's Chief Executive Officer explained how tolerance will be shown.  “The child has to share a piece of bread with the other, and he has to pay with the same toy. That’s the tolerance we are talking about, and that tolerance will lead to all levels of tolerance." The show will also make sure to cover minor religions, Allowing them to achieve a rounded education.  

News Sources:  BBC News; Sesame Workshop
Photo Credits: Cast; Roni

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