Sesame street is taking a new screen name as it shines in Nigeria. The long running children show which made Big Bird and Cookie monster famous will be dubbed under the title “Sesame Square”. The shows title is not the only distinctly West African element in the show as the characters in the show will be having additional African friends– Kami and Kobi.
Kami and Kobi are introduced for that distinctly African twist of the show. Kami is an adventurous sweet yellow furred muppet who is HIV positive; and Kobi, a furry energetic blue muppet who always manages to get into trouble.
With the help from the two, the show aims to tackle some of the biggest challenges faced by the young people in the country. AIDS, malaria, gender inequality, religious differences — as well as many aspects of Nigerian life will be addressed by these characters.
According to Naila Farouky, senior director of international projects at Sesame Workshop the program will concentrate on health an hygiene. He told CNN “This is something our local advisors have prioritized — something that absolutely has to be addressed on the show.”
The programs hopes to get the message across by setting an example. In one episode, a local character is shown covered up in a mosquito net, which the local kids found amusing. But there’s an underlying message behind the act — mosquito nets are a good way to prevent infection from malaria.
According to the National Agency for Control of AIDS, out of the 15 million people living in the country around 278,000 children are HIV-positive. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and President Barack Obama’s Emergency Plan for AIDS relief supported the program by granting a $3.3 million to Sesame Workshop, the non-profit organization behind “Sesame Street,” for the production cost of the show for five years.
Farouky made clear that while “Sesame Square” emphasize health and social issues the show will also host essential learning skills. “The content continues to be about basic life skills — literacy, numeracy and pre-school education,” he told CNN.
So many wondered about the challenges producers had to go through in adapting the show for a Nigerian audience. Farouky expalins “If we’re writing scripts for programs in Nigeria, the writers will be Nigerian scriptwriters. We’ll often look for people who already have some experience in writing, but because we’re aware [of] the format that we use and the methodology that we use, we’ll provide training on how to write.”
Farouky told CNN that collaboration is at the core of the production process. “We work with our local teams to find ways in which we take the content that’s important to them, to infuse the project with the cultural values, making sure we know which the taboo issues are and which are not,” she said.
According to the country’s National Bureau of Statistics, roughly a quarter of households in Nigeria own television sets, which certainly restrict the scope of its coverage. The Sesame Workshop has tried different kinds of platform such as radios and mobile phones for the show.