Photo courtesy of: Muhammad Shafiq
Jun 19, 2012
By Kyle Ranally
The popular Sesame Street TV program has provided educational and entertaining programming for American children for more than 40 years. This summer, Ohio University graduate student Muhammad Shafiq will help bring this same resource to children in Afghanistan.
Originally from Kabul, he is pursuing his masters in communication for development. He came to Ohio University on an Open Society Institute Scholarship, which is awarded to five people in Afghanistan.
Shafiq has been planning the creative concepts and strategy for the radio version of Sesame Street that will soon air in Afghanistan. Over the past three years, a television version of the program has been aired to get Afghan children interested in education.
"It has been a big resource for Afghan children to learn from and to enjoy, especially in a country like Afghanistan where the education system is linear, lecture based, boring and dry," Shafiq said.
Although the television version has been effective, it lacked cultural relativity in some of its segments. It also kept all of the same characters as the original show. Shafiq has aimed to incorporate cultural, religious and folklore stories into his radio proposal to make the show more beneficial and relevant to Afghan children.
"It's mixing imagination with facts. You just have to mix it with something fun," he said. "It's providing education and entertainment for children. The overall objective is to engage children and provide tiny little elements important to these children."
Shafiq started his career in education in 1999 with the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). He began his work with the Afghan Education Project, an effort to educate adults and children. He later worked his way up to director of Radio Education for Afghan Children.
Shafiq's goal is to boost the children's interest in school and reduce the outrageously high dropout rate in Afghanistan. He said the current system begins with 7 million children going to primary school, but only about 60,000 students graduate from high school.