U.S. deploys their biggest secret weapon for Pakistani Kids,Sesame Street Funded by a $20 million grant from the U.S. Agency

U.S. deploys their biggest secret weapon for Pakistani Kids,Sesame Street Funded by a $20 million grant from the U.S. Agency

The world would be a better and more peaceful place if there were more happy, furry puppets around.

At least that is the thinking behind the U.S.'s recent ploy to try and win over Pakistani hearts and minds.

For they are now deploying Bert, Ernie, Elmo and the Cookie Monster to the country - Sesame Street is heading to Pakistan.

 

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 Funded by a $20 million grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development, it is hoped the latest move will instil education values in young children of the country, arming them with the learning tools to fend off extremism in later life.

Filming of the show begins this summer and will debut in the autumn. The furry muppets will speak Urdu instead of English and the format will be the same - with one letter or number learned in each show.

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.

It is hoped that her curiosity and questions about the world will make her a role model for Pakistani children.

Elmo, the cheerful monster toddler from the original, will be in the Pakistani version, with new local personality touches.

The show will also have strong female characters with the subtle aim of promoting tolerance and gender equality.

U.S. civilian aid to Pakistan has tripled to $1.5 billion a year under President Obama, but that money -- invested in food aid, education and infrastructure -- has failed to woo all Pakistanis away from al-Qaida, anti-American sentiment or Islamic fundamentalism. 

Faizaan Peerzada, the head of a Pakistani theatre 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.

'This is a very serious business, the education of the children of Pakistan at a critical time.'

Pakistan's schooling system is failing badly, a major reason for a descent into religious conservatism and economic stagnation.

The show will be available even in the most remote villages and in those without, mobile TV vans will circulate the country, bringing Sesame Street to places without even electricity.

Larry Dolan, head of USAID's education office in Pakistan, told The Guardian: '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 key to what we're trying to do here.

'In terms of bang for the buck, reaching 95 million people is pretty important. This is much more than a TV programme, far more ambitious than a Sesame Street series.'



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