New friends are about to be added to the Sesame Street cast as Nigeria premieres its local version of the favorite children’s show. Sesame Square, as it will be known in Nigeria, is set to premiere this fall and is backed by a five-year grant from USAID and Obama’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. The show will include some old favorites like Big Bird and Elmo, but there will also be some new muppets added to address issues specific to children in the region. The show will feature Kami, a young, energetic girl who is HIV positive and Zobi, a yam obsessed taxi driver.
In a country with nearly half of the 150 million people under the age of 14, Sesame Square aims to address issues in an educational and positive way. However, only 1/4 of the households in Nigeria own television sets, making access to the show difficult. Fortunately, the Sesame Workshop took this into consideration and is using some of the funding to produce educational materials and is looking into how radio and mobile phones can be used to promote the messages taught on the show.
While HIV positive Kami has been featured on the South African version of the show and will be making her debut this fall in Nigeria, there has yet to be an HIV positive character allowed at Sesame Street in New York City. When Kami was first introduced to the public in 2002, Republican Representatives across the U.S. expressed their worry that the puppet would venture across the ocean to the streets of New York. So far, their fears have kept Kami in Africa, but when will they realize that an HIV positive muppet would be a great educational tool for children over here too?