US Spends $20M to Redo Sesame Street for Pakistan

Makeover aimed at boosting education, tolerance, fighting extremism
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 8, 2011 2:23 AM CDT
"This is a very serious business, the education of the children of Pakistan at a critical time," the head of the Pakistani project says.    (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

(Newser) – Out of the $1.5 billion in civilian aid the US is sending to Pakistan this year, $20 million is being used to enlist Elmo in the fight against Islamic extremism. USAid is funding a Pakistani remake of Sesame Street in an effort to educate children in deprived areas, the Guardian reports. Pakistan's failing education system is seen as a major cause of religious extremism. Elmo will be in the remake, but other characters like Big Bird have been cut to make way for new Pakistani characters—including a schoolgirl who loves reading.

The American grant will fund the show for four years. "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 so key to what we're trying to do here," said the director of the education office at USAid for Pakistan. "In terms of bang for the buck, reaching 95 million people is pretty important. This is much more than a TV program, far more ambitious than a Sesame Street series."

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