Radio Sesame Street – Takalani Sesame

South Africa

The world’s first radio version of the popular US TV Sesame Street series aired in South Africa as Takalani Sesame in 2004. A multi-media educational programme, that included TV, radio and print, Takalani Sesame broadcast in Xhosa, Zulu, Tsonga, Tsepedi, English and Afrikaans.

In South Africa, a profound lack of preschool education (only one in six children had access to preschool) coupled with a scarcity of trained preschool teachers, meant a new approach was needed. Through a community outreach initiative, Sesame Workshop (the producers) and its South African partners, developed localised TV and radio content along with educational materials for children. In addition, the project created a series of training programmes for parents, caregivers and teachers to use media as an educational tool.

Lifeline Radios for Takalani

As often happens, great radio content is produced, but the intended audience has no way to listen to it. It was no different in South Africa.  In the poorest communities, electricity was scare or unreliable and the high cost of batteries prevented teachers or caregivers from buying them. That’s why the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC), which aired the TV and radio programmes, approached us to procure 500 solar and wind-up Lifeline radios. They would be used in rural preschools in KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, Eastern Cape and Northern Cape provinces. Lifeline Energy helped on training in use and care of the radios.

Kami – the HIV-positive Muppet

The project also used an innovative curriculum covering key aspects of HIV/AIDS for school children. Given the alarmingly high rates of HIV/AIDS in South Africa, it also introducted the world’s first HIV-positive muppet, Kami. Kami’s name is derived from the word ‘acceptance’ in Setswana, and carries with it a sense of belonging, hope and optimism. Kami helped to reduce the stigma often associated with the disease.

Takalani Sesame initially was funded in part by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in support of the South African Department of Education, Sanlam and SABC Education. The Rockefeller Brothers Foundation funded our radios.

Note:  Sanlam discontinued the radio programmes in 2009 to concentrate on the TV series.