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Takalani Sesame partners mark 10 Years with symposium on early childhood education

Johannesburg, South Africa, and New York, NY, January 15, 2010
—This year marks the 10th anniversary ofTakalani Sesame, the award-winning children’s TV series which first aired on South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) in 2000. To commemorate this occasion and to identify the needs of the next generation of South African children, the producers behind the series are convening a “Symposium of Early Childhood Education,” funded through a grant from the Open Society Foundation for South Africa and through the Mai Family Foundation. On January 19, the group will meet in Johannesburg to discuss policies, practices, health, developmental needs, and the media landscape. The findings will be reflected in future episodes of Takalani Sesame.

“Over the past decade Takalani Sesame has become the cornerstone of the SABC’s programming for young children,” said Lolli Goodson, SABC’s Acting Head of Genre: Children. “Critically it provides fun, entertaining and quality programming on both Radio and Television in all of South Africa’s official languages.  These factors fulfill a number of key strategic and editorial goals for us at the SABC.  The fact that Takalani Sesame achieves all of this while at the same time being loved by millions of young South Africans is for us; priceless.

Takalani Sesame has been making an impact with children and their families since its inception. Milestones have included:

  • 2000:  The debut of Takalani Sesame on SABC. The series encourages basic learning in letters and numbers, and the development of important life skills.
  • 2002: The introduction of Kami, the first HIV-positive Muppet, who learns the meaning of friendship on Takalani Sesame and educates those around her about her disease. That same year, Takalani Sesame Radio debuts on five stations and in the language of the station ensuring that young children are effectively reached in their mother tongue. Neno and Zuzu make an appearance at Parliament to encourage the Budget Vote for Education.
  • 2003: The naming of Kami as UNICEF’s global “Champion for Children.” That same year, the series is awarded the International World Media Festival Gold Award for best children’s program.
  • 2004: The development of a national call-to-action with Takalani Sesame Presents:…talk to me, a South African multimedia campaign promoting communication between adults and children on the crucial subject of HIV and AIDS.  The campaign stresses the importance of parents talking to their children about HIV and AIDS to increase awareness, how to protect themselves, and find support in facing this epidemic and its consequences.
  • 2005: The honor of winning the Governor of Tokyo Prize in the Japan Prize Contest for Takalani Sesame Presents:…talk to me. The Japan Prize honors media that contributes to the advancement of educational television around the world.
  • 2006: The taping of a PSA in conjunction with World AIDS Day. Former US President Bill Clinton and Kami stress the importance of parents talking to their children about AIDS, and finding support to face this epidemic in South Africa.
  • 2007: In a move to support the government’s strong mother tongue based education policy, Takalani Sesameairs in almost all of South Africa’s official languages. That same year, the Takalani Sesame Muppets appear on water tower billboards relaying pertinent health messages.
  • 2008: The introduction of a new character named Vinnie to showcase the diversity within South Africa. Vinnie comes home after being away at university where he had been studying Information Technology. A bit of a techno-whiz, Vinnie helps the Muppet friends with emails and the Internet. Vinnie also runs the mobile library full of books, maps and a computer which the Takalani characters learn to use to find out about all the exciting things in the world and in their community.

“For some children, Takalani Sesame is the first place where they are introduced to basic academic skills that will help prepare them for school,” said Dr. Charlotte Cole, Vice President of Education and Research for Sesame Workshop, who produces the series with Kwasukasukela. “As such, our priority is to ensure that what we’re offering is relevant, engaging, and encourages a lifelong love of learning. We’re fortunate to gather a dedicated group of educators who value Takalani Sesame’s contributions and who will work with us to maintain the program’s vitality through the years.”

Research has shown that children who watch Takalani Sesame had substantial gains in four areas tested: basic knowledge, blood safety, discrimination, and coping with illness. There were gains in literacy and numeracy skills. And there were improvements in life skills (e.g., safety, sounds, nature, emotions, and self-esteem).

Upon the conclusion of the symposium, on January 20, the Takalani Sesame producers and partners will meet to discuss the symposium findings and future opportunities in creating a strategic shared vision.

“Takalani,” which means “be happy” in TshiVenda, conveys the spirit of happiness and innocence. Takalani Sesame is brought to the children of South Africa through a partnership with SABC Education and Sanlam. Initial support and funding was provided. From the American People through the United States Agency for International Development in support of the South African Department of Education. Takalani Sesame is produced by Kwasukasukela under the creative direction of Sesame Workshop in collaboration with the South African partners.


Beatrice Chow
Sesame Workshop
(212) 875 6586

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