Friday, April 8, 2011

Pakistan to Adapt Sesame St Children's TV Show

SimSim Humara ("Ours"), the new Pakistani edition of the original American TV classic Sesame Street, is expected to be launched this year for Pakistan's pre-school children, according to the Guardian newspaper.

Launched in 1969 as a program designed to enhance school readiness in low-income and minority children, Sesame Street was the first television series to attempt to teach an educational curriculum to children as young as two years of age. Sesame Street is not entirely new to Pakistani audiences - the original American version ran on local TV during the 1990s.

Sesame Street International already co-produces 18 localized versions in Australia, Bangladesh, Brazil, Egypt, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Israel, Japan, Jordan, Kosovo, Mexico, Netherlands, Northern Ireland, Palestine, Russia, South Africa , and reaches millions of children in 120 nations around the world. The Indian adaptation called "Galli Galli Sim Sim" and Bangladeshi adaptation "Sisimpur" were both launched in late 2006 with USAID funding. Pakistan's SimSim Humara represents the 19th local adaptation of the 42 year old original American Classic.

Sim Sim Hamara will be set around a dhaba, Urdu name for a roadside tea shop, and it will show residents hanging out on their verandas. It 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. Other characters include an energetic woman, Baaji, who enjoys family time and tradition, and Baily, a hard-working donkey who longs to be a pop star. They'll speak entirely in local languages - Urdu and four regional languages of Balochi, Punjabi, Pashto, and Sindhi . The only monster from the original American version being retained is Elmo, the cheerful toddler, but he will be recast with new local personality touches. Each show will pick one word and one number to highlight.

Faizaan Peerzada, the head of a Pakistani theater group that is collaborating with Sesame Street's American creators, told McClatchy Newspapers: "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". Peerzada added that "this is a very serious business, the education of the children of Pakistan at a critical time."

Funded by a $20 million grant by US AID (United States Agency For International Development), the show will be carried by the state-owned PTV channel which reaches every nook and corner of Pakistan. It will reach 3 million pre-school kids via television screens in their homes. In addition to 78 TV episodes in Urdu and 56 in regional languages, there will also be a radio show and several mobile TV vans to show the program in remote areas and a traveling Muppet road show to front public service messages, on issues such as health, to reach 95 million people.

It's an opportune moment for TV shows like SimSim Humara to ride the wave of the current media revolution sweeping the nation. It began ten years ago when Pakistan had just one television channel, according to the UK's Prospect Magazine. Today it has over 100. Together they have begun to open up a country long shrouded by political, moral and religious censorship—taking on the government, breaking social taboos and, most recently, pushing a new national consensus against the Taliban. The birth of privately owned commercial media has been enabled by the Musharraf-era deregulation, and funded by the tremendous growth in revenue from advertising targeted at the burgeoning urban middle class consumers. Analysts at Standard Charter Bank estimated in 2007 that Pakistan had 30 million people with incomes exceeding $10,000 a year. With television presence in over 16 million households accounting for 68% of the population in 2009, the electronic media have also helped inform and empower many rural Pakistanis, including women.

Larry Dolan, the director of the education office at USAID for Pakistan, told McClatchy that the expenditure on SimSim Humara is a valuable addition to the "series of different pots" of educational assistance the U.S. provides. "Teaching kids early on makes them much more successful when they get to school. And this program will have the capacity to encourage tolerance, which is so key to what we're trying to do here," he said.

Thirty years of research by Georgetown University Early Learning Project has shown that Sesame Street has made a huge positive impact on increasingly diverse American society.

Here is a summary of some of the key findings reported by Georgetown:

1. School-Readiness : In studies completed after Sesame Street's first two televised years, viewers experienced positive outcomes in the areas of alphabet and number knowledge, body part naming, form recognition, relational term understanding, and sorting and classification abilities.

2. Long-term Benefits : In a longitudinal study examining the long-term impact of preschool-aged viewing of Sesame Street, it was found that exposure to the program in the preschool years was significantly associated with secondary school achievement.

3. Social Impact : Sesame Street has also been evaluated with regard to its ability to teach prosocial behavior to young children. Some studies have shown that children were able to generalize demonstrated behaviors in free play situations (Zielinska & Chambers, 1995), while others have found that children were only able to imitate the behaviors in situations similar to those appearing on the program (Paulson, 1974). Sesame Street has also been successful in contributing to children's understandings of complex issues such as death, love, marriage, pregnancy, and race relations. (Fisch, Truglio, & Cole, 1999)

4. Sesame Street has proven to enhance academic skills and social behavior. Children's television based upon collaborative efforts to develop appropriate curricula for young viewers is now more prevalent than ever.

In addition to teaching basic reading and math skills, Pakistan desperately needs to instill in its people greater tolerance and acceptance of diversity to ensure a more pluralistic and peaceful society for genuine democracy to take root. It is my earnest hope that SimSim Humara and other shows like it will be carefully scripted and presented to lay the foundation to move Pakistan closer to Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah's vision of a peaceful, pluralistic and democratic Pakistan.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Sim Sim Hamara

Sim Sim Hamara Youtube Channel

Pakistan's Media and Telecom Revolution

Impact of Cable TV on Indian Women

Early Childhood Education in Pakistan

Newsweek Joins Pakistan's Media Revolution

UNESCO Report on Pre-School Education in Pakistan

Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah's Vision of Pakistan

Billion Dollar UK Aid For Pakistani Schools

Pakistan Must Fix Primary Education

Teach For Pakistan

Developing Pakistan's Intellectual Capital

Intellectual Wealth of Nations

Resilient Pakistan Defies Doomsayers

Student Performance By Country and Race

India Shining and Bharat Drowning

South Asian IQs

Low Literacy Rates Threaten Pakistan's Future

Light a Candle, Don't Curse Darkness

Mobile Phones For Mass Literacy in Pakistan

Poor Quality of Higher Education in South Asia

Teaching Facts vs Reasoning


Anonymous said...

Mayraj said...

I think whole emphasis on Sesame Street is ridiculous...will be negated by Madressas and hasn't helped educate US poor any better either!
Meanwhile UK has unveiled big aid package for Pakistan aid as well. I think okay, as long Pakistan doesn't rely on UK expertise-which is dismal. They cannot improve ed of own poor (including immigrants from Pakistan);and they want to improve ed of Pakistan poor! Talk about deluded hubris!!!

Riaz Haq said...


1. I think the idea of pre-school education that reaches millions of kids is a very good one. And if it helps promote tolerance at a tender age, then that's even better. But it's not a substitute for good primary education.

2. With a PISA reading score of 500, US kids outperformed those in Germany( 497), France (496) and UK (494).

3. Based on PISA reading scores as analyzed by Steve Sailer, US Asians (score 541) are just below Shanghai students (556), US whites (525) outperform all of their peers in Europe except the Finns, and US Hispanics (466) and US Blacks (441) significantly outperform kids in dozens of countries spread across Asia, Latin America and Middle East.

For example, US Hispanics did better than Turks, Russians, Serbians, and all of Latin America.

In fact US Hispanics outperformed all BRIC nations with the exception of China.

And US Blacks did better than Bulgaria, Mexico, Thailand, Brazil, Jordan, Indonesia, Argentina, etc.

4. The only data available for India is 2003 TIMMS on which they ranked 46 on a list of 51 countries. Their score was 392 versus avg of 467. They performed very poorly. It was contained in a report titled "India Shining and Bharat Drowning".

I think Pakistan kids would probably also perform poorly on PISA and TIMMS if it was administered there.

Riaz Haq said...

The $20m grant by USAID for Pakistani version of Sesame Street is part of $1.5 billion a year Kerry-Lugar Bill passed last year. Most of the $1.5 billion has not been disbursed, according to a piece in Foreign Policy Magazine:

U.S. economic aid to Pakistan, which totals over $1.5 billion per year, is a key part of the Obama administration's strategy to strengthen the U.S.-Pakistan strategic partnership. However, most of the aid that was allocated for last year is still in U.S. government coffers.

Only $179.5 million out of $1.51 billion in U.S. civilian aid to Pakistan was actually disbursed in fiscal 2010, the Government Accountability Office stated in a report released last week. Almost all of that money was distributed as part of the Kerry-Lugar aid package passed last year.

$75 million of those funds were transferred to bolster the Benazir Income Support Program, a social development program run by the Pakistani government. Another $45 million was given to the Higher Education Commission to support "centers of excellence" at Pakistani universities; $19.5 million went to support Pakistan's Fulbright Scholarship program; $23.3 million went to flood relief; $1.2 billion remains unspent.

None of the funds were spent to construct the kind of water, energy, and food infrastructure that former Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan (SRAP) Richard Holbrooke advocated for diligently when he was the lead administration official in charge of managing the money. Moreover, according to the report, the Obama administration hasn't yet set up the mechanisms to make sure the money isn't misspent.
"While the facts of the GAO report are accurate, it doesn't reflect the big picture nor adequately represent what we've achieved with civilian assistance over the last year," said Jessica Simon, a spokesperson for the SRAP office. "As the FY 2010 funding was appropriated in April 2010, it is hardly surprising that only a portion of the funding was disbursed by the end of the year."

Simon said that in total, the U.S. government has disbursed $878 million of Pakistan-specific assistance since October 2009, which includes over $514 million in emergency humanitarian assistance in response to the devastating July 2010 floods.

The floods also slowed the progress of the Kerry-Lugar program, Sen. John Kerry's spokesman Frederick Jones told The Cable.

"The floods last summer changed the Pakistani landscape, literally and figuratively, and required us to take a step back and reexamine all of our plans," Jones said. "Bureaucracies move slowly and redirecting aid at this level requires time and some patience. It is difficult to allocate billions of dollars in a responsible way without proper vetting, which takes time."

Experts note that the disparity between U.S. promises to Pakistan and funds delivered is a constant irritant in the U.S.-Pakistan relationship.

"There are always complaints and in terms of the delays there are pretty valid reasons on both sides," said Shuja Nawaz, director of the South Asia Center at the Atlantic Council. He said that Congress's requirement that the money be tracked and accounted for is a source of contention.

"For a long time the U.S. didn't ask any questions about the money. And so it became a bit of a shock," he said.

The GAO has long called for better oversight of the funds, especially in Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). This lack of accountability is what spurred Congress to mandate better oversight of the Kerry-Lugar money, including provisions that require reporting on the Pakistani military's level of assistance to the United States.


Mayraj said...

This confirms what is generally thought to be the case.
That is why I mentioned it in my education article... news/article-2001768/Its- fundamental-benefits- preschool-way-adulthood-study- says.html
Does early learning give you an edge? Study reveals benefits of a preschool education

Read more: news/article-2001768/Its- fundamental-benefits- preschool-way-adulthood-study- says.html#ixzz1OpUVkIUh

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistani version of Sesame St started filming last week and will air at the end of November. It is jointly developed by Sesame Workshop, the creator of the American series, and Rafi Peer Theater Workshop, a group in the Pakistani city of Lahore that has been staging puppet shows for more than three decades, according to a Fox reports:

The American version of Sesame Street first aired in 1969, and the U.S. government has worked with the company since then to produce shows in about 20 foreign countries, including Muslim nations like Bangladesh and Indonesia.

Perhaps nowhere else are the stakes as high as in Pakistan. The U.S. is worried that growing radicalization could one day destabilize the nuclear-armed country. Washington has committed to spend $7.5 billion in civilian aid in Pakistan over five years, despite accusations that the country is aiding insurgents in neighboring Afghanistan.

Rani, the new program's star, sports pigtails and a blue and white school uniform. Her innate curiosity is exemplified by the magnifying glass she often carries and her endless stream of questions. She is captain of the school cricket team and plays the harmonium, an instrument used to perform Qawwali music.

The creators chose Rani as the lead character to emphasize the importance of sending girls to school, something that doesn't often happen in Pakistan's conservative, male-dominated society, said Faizaan Peerzada, the chief operating officer of Rafi Peer and one of several family members who run the organization.

"It makes the girl stand equally with the boy, which is very clear," said Peerzada.

Rani and Munna are joined by Baily the donkey, Haseen O Jameel the crocodile, and Baaji, a spirited woman who serves as a mother figure for the others.

Elmo, the lovable, red, child monster, is the only traditional Sesame Street character on the show, which is called Sim Sim Hamara, or Our Sim Sim.

The action centers around a mock-up of a Pakistani town, complete with houses, a school and Baaji's dhaba, a small shop and restaurant found in many places in the country. The town also includes a large Banyan tree, known as the wisdom tree in South Asia, in the shade of which the children often play.

Given the intense ethnic and regional divisions within Pakistan, the creators tried to build a set that was recognizable to Pakistani children but did not stand out as being from one part of the country. For similar reasons, the skin colors of the puppets range from very light brown to orange.

A total of 78 episodes will be aired in Pakistan's national language, Urdu, over the next three years, as well as 13 in each of the four main regional languages, Baluchi, Pashtu, Punjabi and Sindhi. The shows will appear on Pakistan state television, and the producers hope they will reach 3 million children, 1 million of whom are out of school.

They also plan radio programs and 600 live puppet performances they hope will reach millions more kids and parents.
The program will feature holidays celebrated by Muslims, Christians and Hindus in an attempt to get children to respect the traditions of different religious groups in Pakistan, said Peerzada.

Read more:

Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch are nowhere in sight. But there's Elmo. And new creatures too, like Baily, a kindly donkey who loves to sing, and Haseen O Jameel, a vain crocodile who lives at the bottom of a well.

Sesame Street is coming to Pakistan but not as generations of Americans know it.

The TV show has a new cast of local characters led by a vivacious six-year-old girl named Rani who loves cricket and traditional Pakistani music.

Read more:

Riaz Haq said...

The makers of the US TV show Sesame Street launched a new puppet show in Pakistan on Saturday.

The programme was jointly developed by Sesame Workshop, the creator of the American children's series, and Rafi Peer Theater Workshop, a Pakistani group that has been staging puppet shows for more than three decades.

The show, called Sim Sim Hamara, received $20 million from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

"I think, we have had a really good take off on making a Sesame Sim Sim Hamara which belongs to Pakistan," Faizaan Peerzada, the chief operating officer of Rafi Peer and one of several family members who run the organization, told the audience at launching ceremony in Pakistan's cultural capital Lahore.

"It has Pakistani characters, it has content which is specially designed for Pakistan and there is a lot of development on the side of making an international level production."

The shows will appear on Pakistan state television in late December and the producers hope they will reach three million children, one million of whom are out of school.

A total of 78 episodes will be aired in Pakistan's national language, Urdu, over the next three years, as well as 13 in each of the four main regional languages, Baluchi, Pashtu, Punjabi and Sindhi.

The TV show has a new cast of local characters. The lead character is a six-year-old girl named Rani who loves cricket and traditional Pakistani music. Another character, Munna, is a five-year-old boy obsessed with numbers.

Baily the donkey, Haseen O Jameel the crocodile and Baaji, a strong woman, are a few of the other characters.

The programme is expected to help the educational difficulties of children without access to schooling and reflect messages of inclusion and mutual respect.

"A programme like this can bring forth the children of Pakistan to understand all the ideas with inclusion of kindness to one another, mutual respect and equal opportunity. And I think, that's one of the things that we are very very pleased to be a part of to be able to sponsor that," said U.S. Consul General, Nina Maria Fite.

In addition to the television show, the USAID-funded project will include radio programmes for parents and other care-givers, live puppet shows, mobile video shows, a website with e-books, games, and children's songs.

Educational curriculum will focus on language development, critical thinking, and cognitive processes.

According to figures from UNESCO and other non-governmental organisations, roughly one in 10 of the world's primary-age children who are not in school live in Pakistan, placing Pakistan second in the global ranking of out-of-school children, behind Nigeria.

The World Bank approved a $400-million loan earlier this year for Pakistan's flailing education system, one of the world's worst where the country spends less than 1.5 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) on schooling.

Riaz Haq said...

US State Dept & Sen Feinstein defend US aid to Pakistan, according to Dawn:

WASHINGTON: The US State Department on Tuesday defended aid to Pakistan amid calls from senators for a full review of whether economic and military assistance there serves the US national interest.

“We believe our assistance to Pakistan still continues to provide dividends for the American people in trying to grow and strengthen Pakistan’s democratic institutions, boost its economy,” said spokesman Mark Toner.

“In the long term, you know, those are the kinds of things we’re seeking to achieve,” he told reporters one day after Republican Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham made a full-throated call for reevaluating the aid.

His comments came shortly after US Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Dianne Feinstein said that cutting assistance to Pakistan would be unhelpful but warned that calls to do so had strong congressional support.

“I don’t think that’s useful,” she told reporters. “My understanding is that there’s some overtures under way to restore the relationship. Well, that’s fine, but I suspect that if a bill were to come to the floor which fenced money, the bill would have a good chance of passing,”she said.

US lawmakers have expressed mounting anger at Pakistan, accusing military and intelligence officials there of supporting the Haqqani network blamed here for attacks on US forces and targets in Afghanistan.

“I can only express my profound disappointment with the relationship” and the “deterioration” in an already troubled alliance that “goes up and down, and up and down, and up and down,” she said.

“My very strong feeling is you can’t walk both sides of the street with respect to terror,” said Feinstein.

Relations slid to a new low last month when Nato air strikes killed 24 Pakistani soldiers on the Afghan border, prompting Pakistan to boycott an international conference in Bonn on Afghanistan’s future.

“This is a very complex relationship,” Toner said, adding that the deadly border incident “was difficult for the Pakistani people, for the Pakistani government.”

“They have reacted in a way that shows how important and how significant this tragedy was for them,” Toner said.

“It’s absolutely essential that Pakistan, Afghanistan and the US, other international partners, work through this and beyond. It’s in all our interests.”

But Republican Senator Mark Kirk told AFP that McCain and Graham, who serve on the Senate Armed Services Committee, “are right.”

“Military aid to Pakistan is unsustainable, and in this time of deficits and debt, we ought to save the money,” he said, warning that if Pakistan has chose “to embrace terror and back the Haqqani network,” it should do so “without subsidies from the US taxpayer.

Kirk has also called for bolstering ties to India and “making India a military ally of the United States and to encourage India to fill the vacuum in Kabul once we leave.”

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a report in The Nation about the use of mobile phones to deliver teacher training and resources:

ISLAMABAD - Nokia and UNESCO Islamabad have launched “Mobile Learning Project for Teacher’s Professional Development” on Thursday as formal collaboration took place in the presence of senior government officials, Nokia and UNESCO representatives.
As part of this programme, UNESCO and Nokia are joining hands, where Nokia is providing a technology solution known as Nokia Education Delivery to the UNESCO project ‘use of ICT for professional development of public school teachers’ in remote areas.
In Pakistan, through the project, Nokia will help UNESCO to enable the delivery of high- quality educational materials to teachers who lack training and resources.
Through mobile phones teachers will be given an opportunity to train themselves. Nokia developed the Nokia Education Delivery programme to allow using a mobile phone to access and download videos and other educational materials from a constantly updated education library.
Speaking about the project, UNESCO Director, Kozue Kai Nagata said, “In 21st century public-private partnerships are enjoying growing attention and support as a new and sustainable modality for development.
We are confident to collaborate with Nokia to provide us with the best platform to train public school teachers. Nokia Education Delivery programme is fit to match our need of delivering quality training to a large number of public school teachers across Pakistan through the project named “Mobile Learning for Teachers”.
Amir Jahangir, President AGAHI and a Young Global Leader of the World Economic Forum, shared his views on the launch that “Pakistan is a knowledge starved country, where universal education has its own challenges. To meet the target of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) on education, Pakistan needs to address its education challenges through innovation and technology which can reach to a larger population with cost effective solutions”.
This unique pilot project for Pakistan has been initiated by UNESCO and AGAHI while Nokia Pakistan will enable the project implementation by providing not just Nokia devices but a complete solution via its Nokia Education Delivery programme.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Time magazine blog post on Sim Sim Hamara:

For a 3-year-old who has yet to master the use of the personal pronoun, Elmo is a whiz at foreign languages. Already fluent in Chinese, German, Hindi, Spanish and Arabic, among others, the fluffy red icon has just picked up Urdu, the most common language in Pakistan. At a time when the U.S.-Pakistani relationship is at its worst in more than a decade, Sesame Street — the quintessential American children’s television program — has burst onto the Pakistani scene in a flurry of fake fur, feathers and infectious ditties about the letter alef, or A.
On a tour of the workshop where the show’s Muppets are made, Peerzada, a master puppeteer with more than 40 years of experience directing educational puppet shows for Pakistani children for the Rafi Peer Theatre Workshop, slips his hand into a limp, feathered pocket of gray felt. Even without eyes, the unfinished puppet springs to life with the mannerisms of an owl, swiveling its head to listen as Peerzada expounds on Sim Sim Hamara’s potential with evangelical zeal. Underfunded and neglected for more than 30 years, Pakistan’s education system is in a parlous state. The recently released Annual Status of Education report in Pakistan reveals that nearly 60% of school-age children can’t read, or even do basic, two-digit subtraction problems. For a country where 35% of the population is under the age of 14, the consequences are enormous.

“As a nation, Pakistan has failed its children,” says Peerzada. If Sesame Street brought the joy of learning to generations of American preschoolers, why can’t it help teach Pakistan’s 66 million children under the age of 14 how to read? he asks. “Our children deserve this. All children deserve this,” he says. Obviously a television program that airs twice a week can’t compensate for missing teachers and limited school access, but it’s a start. “To me, Sim Sim Hamara is a gift to Pakistani children, and a window into homes that might think their children are better employed in the fields than at school,” says Peerzada.
The same could not be said of reactions to the program in the U.S., where Fox News in October dubbed Sim Sim Hamara a boondoggle for Elmo and conservative commentators quickly took up the cause. But as Sesame Workshop’s Westin points out, $20 million pays for a lot more than Elmo’s Urdu lessons and a plane ticket to Pakistan. It covers a state-of-the-art studio, high-definition digital-video equipment that won’t be obsolete in a few years, and the foundations of an educational institution that, if all goes to plan, will provide Pakistani children with the basic-literacy building blocks that have been the mainstay of early-childhood education in America for more than four decades. Current estimates say that Sim Sim Hamara is reaching more than 3.5 million Pakistani children who have no other access to preschool education. “This is a smart investment,” says Westin. “Early-childhood education is one of the most effective ways to build stability in any country. An investment like this is not only going to benefit Pakistan, but our children as well. If we can help to create a more peaceful world, that is a benefit to all of our children.” And that sounds like something Elmo would love, in any language.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an ET report on early childhood education in Pakistan:

Plan International Pakistan, a non-governmental organisation (NGO), on Thursday presented its Early Childhood Education (ECE) syllabus to the Punjab government.

Developed after a year’s research, the syllabus focuses on six ‘learning areas’ and includes lessons about personal and social development, language, creative arts, health and hygiene, basic mathematical concepts and general knowledge regarding the world around the child.

The syllabus called Barhtay Huay Qadam has been prepared by Nasira Habib, the founder and director of Khoj, an NGO that focuses on education.

The curriculum has been developed for children between four and five years of age.

Lessons include Aao kuch banain (Let’s make something), Khel ka waqt (play time), Ghar ghar khailain (Playing house) and Kahani ka waqt (Story time).

During a presentation at the launch, Habib said that each ‘learning area’ had a list of expected outcomes, which could be measured with the help of a list of competencies.

Habib told The Express Tribune that after the final draft was submitted in October 2011, pilot projects were run at seven community centres in Chakwal, Vehari and Islamabad.

Habib described the teaching method prevalent in most schools across the province as “regimented”. “Deep down, our society is [still] under the impression that you can’t teach without being strict or [without] corporal punishment,” she said. “We have incorporated elements of our heritage – local stories and games – in the syllabus,” she said.

Habib said that ideally 15 children should make up a ‘learning group’. If there are more than 20 students, she said, it would be best to divide them into two groups. The syllabus can be covered in 32 weeks of ‘active teaching’, with each week following a particular theme. The last week prepares the child for school, with teachers focusing on making the child ready for organised schooling, said Habib.

Habib stressed the role ‘caregivers’ play in early stages of learning. ECE teaching requires expertise, she said, “We underestimate the expertise required to impart education to such young children.”

She also noted the lack of designated ECE centres in the Punjab, “There are only 32 centres in 36 districts.” She said that implementation of early education would be difficult because “70 per cent of rural primary schools in the Punjab are single classroom schools.”..
Aslam Kamboh, the School Education Department secretary, said that since ECE was ‘material-based learning’ (needed educational toys and space), appropriate budgetary allocations were necessary.

He promised to issue a notification, which would make ECE classrooms and playgroup area a valid charge under the ‘Farogh-i-Taleem’ budget ensuring that it becomes an integral part of schooling activity.

Sofia Aziz, the learning adviser for Plan International said that such initiatives would help standardise pre-primary schooling. She also hoped that the NGO would launch the syllabus in Islamabad, Gilgit-Baltistan and Sindh later this year.

Rashid Javed, country director of Plan International Pakistan, said that they were going to send out the syllabus developed to all government schools in the province.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's CBS News story on termination of US funding for Pakistani version of Sesame St:

The U.S. has terminated funding for a $20 million US project to develop a Pakistani version of Sesame Street, the U.S. Embassy said Tuesday. The decision came as a Pakistani newspaper reported allegations of corruption by the local puppet theatre working on the initiative.

The organization in question is the Rafi Peer Theater Workshop, a group in the city of Lahore that jointly developed the show with Sesame Workshop, the creator of the American series.

The show, which includes Elmo and a host of new Pakistani characters, first aired in December and was supposed to run for at least three seasons. The U.S. hoped it would improve education in a country where one-third of primary school-age children are not in class. It was also meant to increase tolerance at a time when the influence of radical views is growing.

U.S. Embassy spokesman Robert Raines said the U.S. Agency for International Development terminated funding for the program, but declined to provide further details.

The Pakistan Today newspaper reported Tuesday that the cause was "severe" financial irregularities at Rafi Peer, citing unnamed sources close to the project. Officials at Rafi Peer allegedly used the U.S. money to pay off old debts and awarded lucrative contracts to relatives, the sources claimed.

Faizaan Peerzada, the chief operating officer of Rafi Peer and one of several family members who run the organization, denied the corruption allegations. He said the U.S. ended its participation after providing $10 million US because of the lack of additional available funds.

"Rafi Peer is proud of its association with the project and of the quality of children's educational television programming created within Pakistan as a result," the group said in a statement sent to The Associated Press.
Rafi Peer plans to seek alternative sources of funding to continue producing the local version of Sesame Street, which is called Sim Sim Hamara, or Our Sim Sim....

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an excerpt from a Lima News Op Ed on Sim Sim Hamara:

When I first heard that America was shopping a version of “Sesame Street” to Pakistan, I couldn't help but feel a touch of pride that someone finally got around to stealing my idea for Baywatch Imperialism.

It is true, I can't take full credit for the idea. I'm certain imperialism wasn't the only reason the government decided to export Elmo and his friends to the troubled nation. There is the fact that an estimated 6.5 million Pakistani children do not attend school and 72 percent of those who do leave before the fifth grade. A few minutes a day with “The Count” may be the only math these kids get, so sending them “Sesame Street” — or, “Sim Sim Hamara,” as the Pakistani version was known — is generally a nice thing to do....
That said, governments tend not to blow $20 million to do nice things. They spend money to further the national interest or, to put it in slightly less political verbiage, to win.

Winning is always the endgame of international diplomacy. We can win resources, we can win new markets, or we can win the hearts and minds of people, but the goal is always the same. What does vary is our method. Sometimes we invade and take what we want. Sometimes we try to buy our way in with gifts and offerings. And sometimes we send them “Baywatch.”

For those of you either too young to have experienced it, or too old to recall, “Baywatch” was the biggest (and some would say, greatest) television show of the 20th century. At its peak in the mid-1990s, the show had 1.1 billion viewers worldwide.
This sort of imperialism is hardly new. Alexander the Great was wise enough to use the cultural benefits of ancient Greece to placate the masses in his conquered worlds, as has every conqueror since. America has long understood the benefits of showing off its goods, and it works. As someone who spent some time in Eastern Europe in the late-'80s, I can tell you that the world, especially the part of it living at the time under communism, coveted the heck out of what we had, just as much of the Middle East does today.

Sadly, it seems as though we've forgotten all that. Instead of trying to win over our enemies by emphasizing our innate awesomeness, we feed their hatred with drone attacks. We send them bombs when we should be hooking them up with free cable.

Earlier this week, the U.S. terminated funding for the Pakistani version of “Sesame Street.” Government officials said the decision came as a Pakistani newspaper reported allegations of corruption by the local puppet theater working on the initiative. Apparently, it's impossible to find a puppeteer who isn't on the take. I've long suspected as much.

That means the kids in Pakistan won't be growing up with the sweetness of Elmo and Big Bird. I don't know what they'll be watching instead, but I suspect it isn't going to help our cause much.

Not that all hope is lost. In a few years, they'll be old enough for “Baywatch.” We can only pray a Hasselhoff concert is not far behind.

Riaz Haq said...

Most successful deployment of puppets in region since Hamid Karzai, says Stephen Colbert according to Washington Post:

Stephen Colbert best explained why the United States has ended funding of a local version of “Sesame Street” in Pakistan, amid reports of corruption at the $20 million project, which, Colbert noted, “was our most successful deployment of a puppet in the region since Hamid Karzai.”

Riaz Haq said...

Most successful deployment of puppets in region since Hamid Karzai, says Stephen Colbert according to Washington Post:

Stephen Colbert best explained why the United States has ended funding of a local version of “Sesame Street” in Pakistan, amid reports of corruption at the $20 million project, which, Colbert noted, “was our most successful deployment of a puppet in the region since Hamid Karzai.”

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an excerpt from Newsweek on corruption charges in Pak Sim Sim Hamara project:

While the project was in development, Rafi Peer and the show’s U.S. licensor, Sesame Workshop, had to work through some cultural differences. “We had to explain there were certain things that cannot be shown in Pakistan,” says Moneeza Hashmi, who competed with Rafi Peer for the project and then joined as script supervisor. “Some of what they wanted us to use was culturally insensitive.” She recalls one exchange over a segment about an animal farm. “I had to explain why we cannot show pigs in Pakistan!”

The project was originally to have received $16–$20 million until 2014. The U.S. Congress shaved this down to $10 million, of which 30 percent was allocated to the Sesame Workshop. With the $6.7 million that came to Rafi Peer—a fraction of the annual $300 million USAID says it spends on various projects in Pakistan—the company completed 26 half-hour episodes, scripts for Season 2, and 13 episodes dubbed in the Pashto language.

Even though it debuted months later than initially planned, Sim Sim Hamara was averaging 18.7 million unique viewers—or about 10 percent of the total population—each month from its first broadcast through the end of April. And yet in May, USAID told Rafi Peer it had run short of funds and would not be able to continue assistance beyond Sept. 30. This deadline was later moved forward by the U.S., citing “credible allegations of fraud and abuse.” In its May 24 letter to Rafi Peer, the agency writes: “USAID would like to underscore our respect for [Rafi Peer’s] creative talent and commitment to furthering the objectives of Sim Sim Hamara.” It also states that it would “encourage the continuation of the program.”

Like its Indian counterpart, Sim Sim Hamara was slated to eventually become self-sustaining—something Peerzada had been working toward. He recently met with Sesame Workshop executives who visited him in Lahore after USAID’s decision, and he says they want the show to go on. But more than the shifted goal post, it is the corruption allegations against his company that make his job harder, if not impossible. “Today, Rafi Peer cannot raise a single dollar,” he says. “The whole world is calling us names. I wish USAID had handled this more responsibly.”

For all practical purposes, Sim Sim Hamara’s fate appears to be sealed. Work on road shows, radio programs, and episodes in other regional languages have stopped. Half a dozen staff members have already been let go. And the show’s official YouTube channel, which prominently featured the USAID logo, has been “terminated” by the social-media website over an apparent copyright violation.

“The wonderful work Rafi Peer has done for the children in this country is absolutely undeniable,” says Moneeza Hashmi, who worked on the project scripts for three months. “I don’t know if it became the victim of some political quagmire, you never know.” U.S. funding to Palestinian initiatives, including their Arabic version of Sesame Street, was stopped in January in response to the Palestinians’ bid at the U.N. for statehood.

The Norwegian government, which has worked with Rafi Peer for almost two decades and helped fund its Museum of Puppetry—which has hosted some 600,000 children since opening its doors eight years ago—has also withdrawn support. “We have put our collaboration on hold,” Terje Barstad of the Norwegian embassy told Newsweek. “However, we have no reason to believe anything was wrong during our collaboration with Rafi Peer.”

“I’m more concerned about the reputation of my family, my organization, and my country,” says Peerzada about the future of Sim Sim Hamara. “It is very sad. We are an artistic group of people. We are liberals. We have been left tumbling.”

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistan Idol show launched by GeoTV.

One of the most popular talent shows in the world has come to Pakistan. The Geo Entertainment Network officially launched ‘Pakistan Idol’ on Wednesday.

The globally celebrated singing talent show has attracted 460 million viewers worldwide since it was launched in 2003.

Speaking to reporters at the launching ceremony, Imran Aslam, the president of the Geo TV Network, said Pakistan had a history of producing talented musicians across genres. The Geo Network’s endeavour to bring forth talented musicians is a step towards keeping that cherished tradition alive.

“The Idol will be a platform for people who sing in private, in the bathroom or in small family gatherings. We will bring them together and provide them with the opportunity to showcase their hidden talent,” he said. “From among them, the people will choose one voice that will reign in our hearts.”

The auditions for Pakistan Idol will start in Islamabad from Thursday (today) and the judges (who have not been named yet) will travel to various other cities to spot talent, including Quetta and Peshawar.

Asif Raza Mir, the managing director of Geo Entertainment, said the network was aware that there were security problems in Quetta and Peshawar, but the two cities were equally important.

“So we will provide our contestants, judges and crewmembers with security,” he added.

The eligibility age for the participants is between 15 and 30 years old.

The reason for this, Asif explained, was to encourage youngsters in the first-ever Pakistani Idol.

“We have a number of plans for the future. We will hopefully come up with Child Idol and another show for people aged between 30 and 60 years.”

About the possible inducements in store, Asif said the canvas for a Pakistani singer was not restricted to within the borders as many had craved a niche for themselves in the Indian entertainment industry.

“When the show was first launched in the UK, the prizes that were offered were not the same as they are today; things happened gradually. But we will certainly provide the winner with the opportunity to sing for the Pakistani film industry which is growing with each passing day.”

The sponsors also spoke on the occasion. ‘Idols’, co-owned by Fremantle Media and 19 Entertainment, is one of the most successful entertainment formats in the world.

It was first aired in the UK as Pop Idol in 2001 and immediately became a worldwide phenomenon with local variations in Asia, Africa, Australia, Europe, North America and South America airing 199 series across 46 territories and attracting upwards of a staggering 6.5 billion votes worldwide.