Sesame Workshop and its South African Takalani Sesame partners (SABC and Sanlam) aim to make their significant library of television and educational outreach materials available to development, education, government, broadcast, and private-sector partners in Namibia, Botswana, Zambia, and South Africa. Requested funds will provide for 65 re-versioned episodes of Takalani Sesame in a language of each country's choosing and educational learning materials packaged in 'kits' comprised of books, posters, and pamphlets for children as well as training manuals for caregivers. The broadcast is expected to reach an estimated 1.8 million children across the four countries, over two years, and the learning kits will be distributed in Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, and Zambia.
Early childhood, the period from age 3 to age 6 when children are not yet in the formal school system, is a critical time for children's learning and development. Children who have access to high quality care and education during this preschool period are likely to be better adjusted socially and emotionally, physically healthier, and more prepared for future learning in school. Caregivers who have been trained in culturally and developmentally appropriate methods of early childhood care and education (ECCE) are likely to facilitate the healthy growth and development of young children. Supportive preschool educational opportunities provide the foundation for lifelong success. These factors are particularly crucial for vulnerable children, who are at risk of developmental disadvantage and lack access to educational opportunity. Moreover, basic education skills, such as literacy, serve as protective factors both immediately and later in life. Literacy is the key differentiator of social, health, and educational outcomes and predicts behavior change in many populations around the world.
The Takalani Sesame partners plan to:
- Provide a daily Takalani Sesame television program distributed free of charge to national broadcasters in Namibia, Zambia, and Botswana.
- Develop an educational outreach network that will reach preschoolers including orphans and vulnerable children (OVC) to support/meet their basic educational needs including messaging on cognitive, social, and emotional development, and physical health.
- Provide direct service providers, parents and caregivers with materials to help them better communicate important educational and health messages to children - particularly orphans and vulnerable children - in an age-appropriate manner, including content that addresses literacy, math, and life skills.
- Build capacity in each country and regionally in the areas of educational materials re-versioning, research, and educational outreach.
- Expand beyond South Africa the current Takalani Sesame Partnership to include government and non-government entities, broadcasters, private sector, and corporate sponsors to support educational media.
- Help call attention to the importance of early childhood development and early education in preparing children for school, and particularly in meeting the critical needs of orphans and vulnerable children.
The Takalani Sesame Expansion Plan for Southern Africa is a first step toward what Sesame Workshop hopes will be an ongoing Sesame Street presence in Southern Africa. Over time, Sesame Workshop expects that the project will encourage better developmental and educational outcomes for young African children, especially the neediest and most vulnerable, as a direct result of availability and access to quality educational materials.
Research commissioned to assess the project's impact will examine the following factors:
1. Number of TV episodes broadcast in Namibia, Botswana, and Zambia
2. Number of outreach kits distributed in Namibia, Botswana, and Zambia
3. Number of caregivers trained in Namibia, Botswana, South Africa, and Zambia
4. Number of government and non-government agencies endorsing project in Namibia, Botswana, South Africa, and Zambia
5. Measurable change in children's achievement in literacy, mathematics and selected life skills.
Various analyses have shown a proven investment return to high-quality early childhood care and education (ECCE); it has been clearly linked with benefits to children (improves quality of life, lays the foundation for skills essential to future learning, encourages school retention, and enhances holistic development) and to society at large (lower school dropout, higher literacy, better maternal and child health, lower crime rates, more skilled workforce). Furthermore, basic education has been clearly established as a key factor in the promotion of healthy behaviors and positive health outcomes, and endorsed as a 'window of hope' in combating the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Indeed, even a few years of primary education for girls translates into significant changes to maternal and child health when they are adults.
Sesame Workshop is best known for its award-winning series, Sesame Street, which is viewed in more than 120 countries. Takalani Sesame is the Workshop's South African co-production that is an integrated, multi-media education initiative covering a broad early childhood development curriculum, including a special focus on HIV/AIDS awareness. Initiated through a grant from the United States Agency for International Development under a bilateral agreement with the Government of South Africa, Takalani Sesame launched in July 2000 and quickly became the country's premiere early childhood development vehicle delivering daily television, radio, and print content to millions of children with a curriculum focused on early literacy, numeracy and life skills. From its inception, Takalani Sesame enjoyed immense popularity and critical acclaim and continues to be loved by children, trusted by parents, and respected by educators.
Of particular relevance to the proposed Takalani Sesame Expansion Plan for Southern Africa project are the results of research on Takalani Sesame's impact in South Africa. Children exposed to Takalani Sesame materials made measurable gains in literacy, numeracy, and life skills, relative to a control group who were not exposed to these materials. In terms of the HIV/AIDS educational messages, results from an independent research agency has shown that children in an experimental group exposed to the intervention, when compared to a control group, demonstrated greater gains in their knowledge and awareness about HIV/AIDS relative to a control group (Khulisa Management Services, 2005).