Sesame Street Comes to Afghanistan

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RAND Office of Media Relations

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Sesame Street

Paige Parham
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Sesame Workshop
Beatrice Chow

April 29, 2004

KABUL, Afghanistan – A specially adapted version of Sesame Street, the television program that has helped educate millions of children around the world, will be shown in schools and other settings in Afghanistan. Sesame Workshop (the nonprofit educational organization behind Sesame Street) and the RAND Corporation announced the initiative today, as Afghan government officials accepted the first of more than 400 multi-media educational outreach kits prepared by Sesame Workshop and RAND.

Each kit contains ten 20-minute-long videotaped episodes created from material developed in Egypt by Al Karma Productions for Alam Simsim, an Egyptian adaptation of Sesame Street funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) through a bilateral agreement with the Egyptian Ministry of Education. The program, which has been dubbed in Dari, is called Koche Sesame in the version created for Afghanistan.

The educational outreach kits will be distributed across Afghanistan by the Afghan government and non-governmental organizations. Each kit distributed with the videotapes also contains a teacher handbook illustrating ways to use the media as an effective educational tool, a poster and school supplies. Kits feature original Afghan music and messages from Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah.

The kits were accepted today by Sekander Giyam, advisor to the Afghan minister of education, at a news conference in Kabul hosted by Afghan Minister of Information and Culture Said Makhdoom Raheen. Six Afghan children gathered at the news conference to view one of the Koche Sesame videotapes.

“We are very pleased with this gift,” Giyam said. “We need our children to have their eyes and their minds opened to new ideas.” He said the educational outreach kits would help Afghan teachers “move into a new century of education.”

The Koche Sesame episodes are designed to assist teachers in educating children, foster awareness of other cultures, highlight opportunities for girls and women, and increase student interest in education and career opportunities.

While most of the Koche Sesame episodes will be shown in classrooms, they will also be available for viewing at women’s centers, orphanages, children’s centers and in traveling vans. Videos will also be shown on national and provincial television, but few Afghan families have TV sets in their homes and many do not even have electricity.

RAND worked with Sesame Workshop to select content that it is appropriate for Afghanistan. Afghan teachers, the Afghan Ministry of Information and Culture, Afghan media groups and Afghan-Americans also worked in close cooperation with Sesame Workshop and RAND on the project.

“As a nonprofit educational organization committed to helping children worldwide reach their highest potential, this outreach initiative is an important first step in reaching the region’s children with lessons encouraging literacy and numeracy, as well as sharing and cooperation,” said Gary E. Knell, President and CEO of Sesame Workshop. “Laughter and learning will also bring hope for a brighter and more peaceful future.”

“Because of the Taliban’s repressive regime, a large majority of Afghan children have little or no educational background,” said Cheryl Benard, a senior political scientist at RAND who heads RAND’s portion of the project. “This material has been assembled specifically to address the needs of a post-conflict society.”

The program is part of the RAND Center for Middle East Public Policy’s Initiative for Youth in the Middle East, which was formed to help policymakers find solutions for some of the most urgent problems facing the younger generation in the region. The initiative is partially funded by the Government of Qatar, which is one of the nations providing redevelopment assistance for Afghanistan.

RAND has already shown Koche Sesame episodes to about 1,000 school-age children and their teachers in Afghanistan to see how children responded to the episodes.

“Children enjoyed the program and wanted to see more episodes, and teachers and school administrators were pleased with the program as well,” Benard said. “Our classroom observations and discussions with students and teachers have shown us that visual media are very attractive to children in both urban and rural regions of Afghanistan.”

The Koche Sesame episodes are designed to help rebuild an Afghan educational system ravaged by years of war and by the Taliban regime, which rejected modern education and barred girls from school.

The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit research organization providing objective analysis and effective solutions that address the challenges facing the public and private sectors around the world.

Sesame Workshop is a nonprofit educational organization making a meaningful difference in children’s lives around the world. Founded in 1968, the Workshop changed television forever with the legendary Sesame Street. Today, the Workshop continues to innovate on behalf of children in 120 countries, using its proprietary research methodology to ensure its programs and products are engaging and enriching.

Sesame Workshop is behind award-winning programs like Dragon Tales and Sagwa, The Chinese Siamese Cat and ground breaking multi-media productions in South Africa, Egypt and Russia. These are among many Workshop endeavors recognized for their deep understanding of children’s developmental needs and the most effective ways to address them. As a nonprofit, Sesame Workshop puts the proceeds it receives from sales of Sesame Street, Dragon Tales and Sagwa products right back into its educational projects for children around the world.