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Takalani Sesame Launches New Community Engagement Initiative in South Africa’s Eastern Cape

(East London, South Africa and New York, New York, May 19, 2014)Sesame Workshop, the non-profit educational organisation behind South Africa’s Takalani Sesame, announces today the launch of a brand new initiative to promote quality integrated early childhood development (IECD) in the Eastern Cape, a province with high numbers of young children and a low economic status. The Mai Family Foundation, based in New York and also in Pearston in the Eastern Cape, has funded the development and supported distribution of 1000 Takalani Sesame kits containing engaging and educational materials for children three to six years old.

Featuring the Takalani Sesame MuppetsTM like Kami, Zuzu, Zikwe, Neno and Moshe, new educational materials, based on learning through play and observation, are being distributed to civil society and government partners. The kits will be circulated through 23 educational districts for use by IECD and Grade R practitioners who work with families and young children in both centre as well as home-based IECD programmes.Designed by IECD specialists working in government departments and civil society organisations in the Eastern Cape, these Takalani Sesame kits are filled with materials that can strengthen IECD programmes for young children and their families.

Left to Right: ML Ngonzo, Head of Department, Department of Education; Pamella Maxakato, Community Engagement Coordinator, Takalani Sesame; Moshe from Takalani Sesame; Vuyelwa Ntuli, Deputy Chief Education Specialist, Department of Early Childhood Development; Jade Jacobsohn of the Mai Family Foundation; Stephen Sobhani, Vice President, International, Sesame Workshop celebrate the launch of Takalani Sesame community engagement materials in South Africa’s Eastern Cape.

The Takalani Sesame kits highlight integrated themes and topics through a focus upon well-being, identity and belonging, language and communication, exploring mathematics, problem-solving and knowledge, and an understanding of the world.

Each kit includes:

  • a 2m x 2m story mat with pictures dealing with the themes or topics with which young children learn about the world around them;
  • ten wordless picture books for language and concept development which focus upon mother tongue (home language) as well as in other chosen languages;
  • eleven maths cards focusing on activities for number and counting; patterns, space and shape; measuring and problem-solving;
  • a set of finger Muppets;  and
  • a set of guidelines for using all the materials that adhere to the South African National Curriculum Framework for children from birth to five and the Curriculum and Policy statements (CAPS) for Grade R through the Foundation Phase.

The kits have been created using organisations based in the Eastern Cape Province to enhance local economic development. The materials are developed by a group of specialists living and working in the province; printed by Harry’s printers, a long-established printing firm in East London; and distributed in hand-sewn bags made by the local Eastern Cape women’s organisation, “I Left My Heart in Africa,” known for providing opportunities to women to produce hand-made designs from home, often using recycled materials.  The bags are made using fabric manufactured by the local textile company, da Gama, including the blue workwear and the colourful traditional cloth of the Eastern Cape, shweshwe. The pegs for use with the maths activities, are made in neighbouring Kwa-Zulu Natal.

The 1000 kits will be rotated on a regular schedule by the civil society organisations and government departments through 500 Grade R classrooms as well as 500 early childhood development centres—for a reach of over 33,000 children and caregivers in the Eastern Cape province. The materials are linked to a training programme for IECD facilitators who work with Grade R and IECD Practitioners and families.

The project accompanies the production of new television and radio seasons of the long running series, Takalani Sesame.

For over 12 years, Takalani Sesame, South Africa’s original co-production of the world renowned Sesame Street, has been broadcast on SABC and aims to engage children in literacy, numeracy and life skills, including HIV awareness. With the help of Muppets like Kami, Zikwe, Neno, and Zuzu, Takalani Sesame sets out culturally relevant lessons that focus on the educational needs of South Africa’s children.  Studies indicate that children exposed to Takalani Sesame showed greater learning across all three of the program’s curricular areas (literacy, numeracy, and life skills) than children who were not exposed to the materials.[1]

“For twelve years, Kami, Zikwe, Neno and all the Muppets of Takalani Sesame have been educating and engaging children in South Africa, and we are thrilled to focus our efforts in South Africa’s Eastern Cape,” says H. Melvin Ming, CEO and President, Sesame Workshop. “Sesame Workshop is proud to work with the Department of Basic Education, Sanlam, SABC and the Mai Family Foundation to create and distribute content that not only introduces children to letters and numbers, but will prepare them with fundamental skills to put them on a trajectory for a lifetime of learning.”

“The Mai Family Foundation is pleased to work with Sesame Workshop to bring these incredibly important resources to an area of South Africa that is not only near and dear to my heart, but is also in great need of them,” says Vincent Mai of the Mai Family Foundation. “The beloved characters of Takalani Sesame will now reach thousands of children in the Eastern Cape and can help put them on a positive trajectory for life.”

“These Takalani Sesame community engagement materials support the aims of the National Curriculum Statement forGrade R and children aged three to four, and in so doing, assist us in advancing towards our national educational goals for the early childhood sector. The Department of Education (DBE) is proud to be one of the founding partners in this ground breaking initiative that has, for the past thirteen years, served the children of South Africa in supporting their learning in home language, mathematics and life skills,” says Marie Louise Samuels, Director of Early Childhood Development at the Department of Basic Education.

About Takalani Sesame
Takalani Sesame is the ground-breaking educational South African children’s program that has engaged children with the help of favourite friends Moshe, Kami, Zikwe, Zuzu, and Neno for over 12 years. Takalani Sesame continues to reinforce children’s education and emphasize a positive atmosphere while supporting South Africa’s mother tongue based education policy. With television, radio, digital content and community engagement materials in nearly all of South Africa’s official languages, Takalani Sesame is a partnership between Sesame Workshop, the non-profit educational organisation behind Sesame Street, South Africa’s Department of Basic Education (DBE), Sanlam, SABC and production partner Kwasukasukela (KWK). Initial support and funding for the series was provided by the United States Agency for International Development.  Throughout South Africa, Takalani Sesame’s outreach teams have trained over 41,500 caregivers and 100 teachers, and have carried out numerous community events designed to engage children with educationally rich experiences.

Twitter:           @lovetakalani

About Sesame Workshop
Sesame Workshop is the non-profit educational organization behind Sesame Street, the landmark television program that reaches millions of children every day in more than 150 countries. The Workshop’s mission is to use the educational power of media to help children everywhere reach their highest potential. Delivered through a variety of platforms, Sesame Workshop develops research-based content – including television programs, books, games, mobile apps and community engagement initiatives – that supports early childhood learning, helps prepare children for school, and addresses developmental needs. The Workshop’s programs are tailored to the needs of specific regions and focus on topics that help young children and families develop critical skills for lifelong learning. For more information, visit us at

[1]Khulisa Management Services (2005).  Impact Assessment of Takalani Sesame Season II Programme.  Report prepared for the Takalani Sesame Project at SABC Education Television. Johannesburg, South Africa.

Margaret Irvine
Eastern Cape
Outreach Director

Philip Toscano
Sesame Workshop, New York
Director, Corporate Communications

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