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Sesame Street to tame Pakistan

There's no Cookie Monster, no Big Bird and no Count von Count. But Pakistani children will soon start experiencing what millions in the West have done for more than four decades — the joys of Sesame Street.

world Updated: Apr 09, 2011 00:06 IST
Guardian

There's no Cookie Monster, no Big Bird and no Count von Count. But Pakistani children will soon start experiencing what millions in the West have done for more than four decades — the joys of Sesame Street.

In a $20 million remake of the classic American children's programme, the setting for the show has moved from New York to a lively village in Pakistan.

The Pakistani version, in which characters will speak mostly in Urdu, will feature Rani, a cute six-year-old Muppet, the child of a peasant farmer, with pigtails, flowers in her hair and a smart blue-and-white school uniform. Her curiosity and questions about the world will, it is hoped, make her a role model for Pakistani children.

The financing for the series comes from USAid, the economic assistance arm of the US government, which aims to help the country's young learn some basic words and numbers through Sesame Street's fun style of education. Pakistan's schooling system is failing badly, a major reason for a descent into religious conservatism and economic stagnation.

"The idea is to prepare and inspire a child to go on the path of learning, and inspire the parents of the child to think that the child must be educated," said Faizaan Peerzada, of Rafi Peer Theatre Workshop, which was awarded the commission for the project in collaboration with Sesame Workshop, the creator of the American show.

The show will have strong female characters and carry an implicit message of tolerance but will feature no pro-American propaganda or overt challenge to hardline religious sentiment.