With yams, mosquito nets: Nigeria adapts Sesame Street

A yam-loving muppet and another who's HIV positive romp about a set filled with an old drum of oil, a raffia basket and a heap of ubiquitous hot red peppers.

Welcome to Sesame Street, Nigerian style.

The local adaptation of the legendary children's educational television series hits Nigerian screens at the weekend with the same vocation as its award-winning American model: give pre-schoolers a head start in learning their letters and numbers - and lots of fun while doing so.

But Sesame Square, as the show is called, has a definite African twist - and not just Big Bird's Nigerian-accented English.

Focus is also placed on malaria prevention in a country where the disease kills around 300,000 people a year - or nearly a third of one million malaria deaths on the continent.

And it seeks to get the HIV and AIDS message across in an easy-to-understand way for children in Africa, the continent worst hit by the virus.

One of stars, golden furry five-year-old Kami, a girl muppet, is HIV-positive herself. Another, fuzzy blue male muppet Zobi, owns a yellow taxi and has an obsession with yams, a staple food in Nigeria.

In one episode Zobi gets entangled in a mosquito net, insisting he's protecting himself from catching malaria. Kami admonishes him, saying he's is not supposed to "wear" it but to sleep under it.

"It's fun, it's humorous but it gets them (children) thinking about a mosquito net and why there is a mosquito net in the first place," said Yemisi Ilo, executive producer of the Nigerian series.

"Statistics show that at the end of the day malaria and HIV kill more people in this part of the world than anything else," said Ilo.

Some 75 million Nigerians, or half of the population, get malaria at least once a year while children younger than five - around 24 million - suffer up to four bouts annually, according to official statistics.

- Big Bird with Nigerian accent -

------------------

Muppet Kami's own mother died from HIV and she always wears the symbolic red ribbon. But she's a resilient, jovial and affectionate little character, a role aimed at fighting stereotypes about people with HIV and AIDS rather than lecturing small viewers about the disease.

The 30-minute series to be aired twice weekly on Nigeria's national public television, Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), premieres this Saturday.

Three seasons are planned, with the first entitled "We Can" to celebrate the self worth and heritage of Nigerian children.

For US ambassador to Nigeria Terence McCulley, Sesame Square is set "to inspire children to perceive learning as fun and a necessary pathway to success, and to echo President Obama's 'Yes, We Can'."

The Nigerian series, funded by the US government development agency, USAID, and the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), is the latest of some 20 international Sesame Street versions broadcast in 140 countries from Bangladesh to Kosovo.

Some of the Nigerian segments will feature original Sesame Street muppets but with voice overs.

"What we have done is to dub over the American accented voices with Nigerian voices so we have our own Nigerian Elmo, our own Nigerian Big Bird, our own Bert, Ernie, Grover," said Ilo.

"That way we have consistency," she said, to avoid "watching the studio segment of Kami and Zobi talking with Nigerian accents and then suddenly it turns into an American accent."

Sesame Workshop CEO Gary Knell has said with Sesame Square, Nigerian children "will see other children just like them engaging in exciting activities and lessons that have the potential to foster a lifelong love of learning."

Another African twist has been taken into account. In a country where many of the 150 million people have no access to television or if they do, don't always have electricity to power their sets, Sesame Square will also distribute literacy kits targeted at some 80,000 children.

Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
Arts and Entertainment
J Jefferson Farjeon at home in 1953
booksBooksellers say readers are turning away from modern thrillers and back to golden age of crime writing
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Hewer is to leave The Apprentice after 10 years

TV review Nick Hewer, the man whose eyebrows speak a thousand words, is set to leave The Apprentice

Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says

film George RR Martin owns a cinema in Santa Fe

Arts and Entertainment
Clued up: John Lynch and Gillian Anderson in ‘The Fall’

TV review

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
News
Shenaz Treasurywala
film
News
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
film
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
music
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

    Panto dames: before and after

    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

    Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
    The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

    The man who hunts giants

    A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
    The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

    The 12 ways of Christmas

    We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
    Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

    The male exhibits strange behaviour

    A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
    Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

    Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

    Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

    The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
    Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

    Marian Keyes

    The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

    Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

    Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
    Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

    Rodgers fights for his reputation

    Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
    Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

    Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

    'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
    Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick