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Early Childhood

UNICEF and Sesame Street helping to promote education and tolerance in Kosovo

© Sesame Street
The Sesame Street Kosovo project dubs segments from the show’s international library into Albanian (shown here) and Serbian, and incorporates locally produced content.

By Arbena Kuriu

LUKAVC I THATE/SUVI LUKAVAC, UN Administered Province of Kosovo, 26 March 2007 –In the remote village of Lukavc i Thate/Suvi Lukavac in western Kosovo, 27 children in a community-based early childhood centre are opening gifts brought to them by visiting UNICEF staff members.

“It’s Big Bird!” exclaims one five-year-old girl as she opens a package to discover a soft plush toy of the bright yellow bird.

While opening new books, one of the boys bursts into tears. It is his first day in the centre and he is nervous about all the new things happening around him. A teacher sits and talks to him while the other children join in to tell their new friend how much fun kindergarten will be.

Early access to education

The majority of children in Kosovo do not have access to early childhood education. State-provided rural early childhood services, such as pre-schools or kindergartens, did not previously exist in Kosovo, leaving little understanding of the significance of early learning.

In this village, the early childhood centre is the only place offering any kind of education and socialization for young children. UNICEF financially supported the centre from 2002 to 2006, at which point it became self-sustainable and the municipality took over the funding.

In order to bolster early childhood education and promote tolerance, UNICEF and partners have now come together for a Kosovo-wide Sesame Street project. Young children in Kosovo generally live in discrete worlds defined by ethnic groups and other divisions. With the help of Sesame Street, Kosovo’s Albanian and Serbian children are now exposed to each other’s language, culture and traditions.

© Sesame Street
With programming in both Albanian and Serbian (shown here), Sesame Street Kosovo helps expose children to each other’s language, culture and traditions.

Joint initiative

The project is a joint initiative of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), UNICEF’s office in Kosovo, USAID, SIDA and the Sesame Street Workshop.

The show is the first locally produced educational media initiative in the area – and the first that provides children of diverse ethnic backgrounds with age-appropriate messages encouraging respect for each other.

“With Rruga Sesam/Ulica Sezam, we aim to fill in the big educational gap at early ages,” says UNICEF’s Head of Office in Kosovo, Robert Fuderich. “Furthermore, the new season of Sesame Street will reinforce the message to children and parents from different ethnic communities in Kosovo that there are children ‘on the other side of the hill’ who speak a different language and have different cultural traditions and beliefs.”

Sharing traditions and experiences

The Sesame Street Kosovo project began in December 2004 with of 52 episodes dubbed into Albanian and Serbian. Outreach materials were produced and distributed in communities for home-based early childhood education activities. Particular focus was placed upon newly literate mothers who used the outreach materials with their children.

The new season started in 2006 and consists of an additional 26 half-hour episodes.

Sesame Street Kosovo is based on existing segments from Sesame Workshop’s international library, combined with locally produced live action films that are incorporated into the television series. These two-minute films depict the everyday lives of children from a variety of backgrounds and provide a window through which viewers can learn about the traditions and experiences of others.

UNICEF is also producing a second round of outreach materials for use in a variety of learning environments to extend the educational messages of the series to Kosovo’s most remote areas.




March 2007:
Watch a video excerpt from Sesame Street Kosovo.
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