/ 13 May 2005

Headstart on the street

A home-grown version of Sesame Street, the world-renowned television series for young children, is to be broadcast later this year.

TAKALANI Sesame, which incorporates 50% of the original American programme, and 50% local content, is being seen as ”a way to jumpstart learning” for the 91% of the 6,5-million South African children under six years who don’t have access to pre-school.

The multimedia initiative is a partnership between the Department of Education, SABC Education, Children’s Television Workshop (CTW, the American makers of the 30-year-old television programme) and Sanlam. The R60-million venture has been partially funded from the R30-million grant made by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) for educating young children. Sanlam has also ploughed R25-million into the project, which will see Takalani Sesame’s reach broadened through radio and an outreach training project to show parents and teachers how to use the radio and television programme. South Africa is the first country to develop a radio version of Sesame Street.

”Parents and caregivers will be trained to use the Takalani Sesame television and radio programmes to enhance the development of their children in the early years, thus providing them with a headstart when they enter Grade 1,” said Minister of Education Kader Asmal at the launch of the series in Soweto last month. ”Takalani Sesame is an important intervention that is designed to bring fun, laughter and education to the child. It is designed to help the child and his/her parents to understand their world, to work together and to make their world a better place. The name ”Takalani” which means ”Be Happy” in TshiVenda conveys that spirit of happiness and innocence,” Asmal said. He added that the Department of Education will release a White Paper on ”Early Childhood Educare” soon.

According to CTW, the educational value of Sesame Street has been verified by a wealth of research which shows that children in many different cultural settings in the 140 countries where the programme has been shown have been enriched by it. ”My children grew up with Sesame Street during the many years of exile from South Africa,” Asmal said. ”Thus I have first-hand knowledge of Sesame Street and its potential. The fact that this series is an indigenous South African version will ensure that the impact on children will be relevant and greater.” The local version has created vibrant puppet characters, Zikwe, Moshe, Neno and Zuzu, to give children a sense of familiarity. Local production company Kwasukasukela has created the South African-style animation and studio work which is combined with inserts from the American Sesame Street.

— The Teacher/Mail & Guardian, March 20, 2000.


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