Localizing Global Trends
Education in Pakistan remains dismal. However, the global education phenomenon, Sesame Street, is rapidly permeating the younger society and developing mindsets.
Illiteracy remains high in Pakistan and it is a commonly held perception that people do not wish to educate their children. However, a rising counter opinion based on reports and surveys suggests that many parents actually want their children to study. However, due to poor standards of state schools and widespread poverty, millions of these young children remain out of school. For those children enrolled in government schools or mismanaged private schools, the quality of education lies below acceptable standards. In such a scenario, many ideas have come forth in developing countries to address the pressing problems of early child education.
Although the US is a developed country, Sesame street has been an initiative that for years has combined enjoyment and learning for children and has become one of the most watched children television shows in the country. The show features human characters, puppets and muppets who together create an atmosphere of learning, fun, friendship and curiosity. Ini- tially started as a small morning show, Sesame Street was soon adapted for road shows, radio, puppet shows and today has a global outreach through localized versions across the world.
Interesting localized adaptations of Sesame Street have initiated debates and attracted attention in their respective countries. In South Africa, Takalani Sesame included an Hiv-positive muppet, which raised objections that it is a message too harsh for children but producers agreed that AIDS, being one of the fastest growing epidemics in the country, deserved the spotlight. Another adaptation of Sesame Street was aired in Kosovo called Rruga Sesa and Ulica Sezam. Kosovo declared itself independent from Serbia after a decade of bloodshed and violence that scarred ties between ethnic Albanians and Serbians. The production team of the program had to make crucial decide over matters such as alphabets, language and culture in order to cater purposefully to the audience inclusive of various ethnic groups.
In Bangladesh, a successful series Sisumpur ran on BTV ( Bangladesh Television) with characters that integrated local culture. Prominently Halum, a happy royal Bengal tiger and a curious girl, Tuktuki led the show with numerous fun-filled, learning activities along with the support of other muppets.
In 2011, a Pakistani version called Sim Sim Hamara also went on air. The show is produced by the USAID with the Rafi Peer Theatre Workshop designing and executing the program. Sim Sim Hamara is depicted in a colorful setting that shows a typical mohalla (neighborhood) complete with a school, homes, cycle repair shop, bus stop, garden, dhaba (roadside café) and loving characters. Central characters include Rani, a girl filled with intrigue and thus lots of questions, a boy Munna who is very good with numbers and of course a Baji, who runs the café and takes care of everybody. The cast has been arranged in a way to raise various points in the society such as girls’ education while the cultural value of arts, library and gardening is presented beautifully in the series through set design, charac-