‘Sesame Street’ goes to Nigeria

TV series to focus on literacy, HIV.AIDS education

Big Bird and his pals are winging their way to Nigeria.

Sesame Workshop is developing a Nigerian version of iconic kids’ show “Sesame Street,” which celebrated its 40th anniversary last month, to bring messages about staying in school, girls’ empowerment and HIV/AIDS — an outsized problem in the region — to the nation’s children.

With the working title “Sesame Street Nigeria,” the project is backed by a five-year grant from the United States Agency for Intl. Development.

Sesame Workshop, a nonprofit educational organization, is creating 78 half-hours as well as conducting research to evaluate the program’s impact.

In October, Sesame Workshop hosted a seminar in Abuja, the capital of the African nation, assembling an advisory board of local experts on child health, teacher education and early childhood education, to determine the focus and content for “Sesame Street Nigeria.”

The majority of the country’s children live in poverty with limited access to basic education. Less than 30% attend preschool, and only 60% attend school at all.

The TV series will focus on fostering basic skills such as counting, literacy and analytic thinking, striving to empower children to reach their full potential by staying in school.

“Introducing Kami and Big Bird to children in Nigeria lies at the core of Sesame Workshop’s mission to foster respect and understanding through the power of media and beloved characters from ‘Sesame Street’ co-productions,” says Naila Farouky, producer of “Sesame Street Nigeria.” “It is our hope that the series will make a strong impact among Nigerian children and their families to prepare them for school and life, as well as help them understand HIV and AIDS and acquire a foundation to overcome prejudices and stigmas associated with the diseases.”

“Sesame Street Nigeria” is an extension of “The Adventures of Kami and Big Bird” pilot outreach project that launched in Nigeria this year.

The outreach materials provide children and caregivers resources about HIV and AIDS. They include videos featuring Big Bird and Kami, the character from South Africa’s “Takalani Sesame” who is HIV positive.

Sesame Workshop shows, including “Sesame Street” and localized versions of the program, air in 140 countries, including Bangladesh, India, Northern Ireland and the Palestinian territories.,

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