The humanitarian response “Play to Learn” introduces Rohingya Muppets to Sesame Street

Noor (short for Noor Yasmin) and Aziz are two of the newest members Sesame Street family. Introduced earlier this month, the six-year-old Muppet twins are modeled on the Rohingya children who live at Cox’s Bazaar in Bangladesh – the world’s largest refugee camp – and aim to become teachers and friends.

“Noor and Aziz are at the heart of our efforts to bring early education and learning through play closer to children and carers affected by the Rohingya refugee crisis, which has been severely affected by the double displacement crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Sherrie Westin, President of the Workshop. social impact for sesame, he said in a press release.

“These are two very special sesame dolls – for most children, Rohingya, Noor and Aziz will be the first characters in the media to look and sound like them. Rooted in the rich Rohingya culture and informed by extensive research and contributions from the Rohingya, Noor and Aziz families will bring the transformative power of playful learning to families at a time when it is needed more than ever before, ”added Westin.

The need for Rohingya children to thrive in a decades-long refugee crisis

The Rohingya people have faced decades of discrimination, targeted violence and statelessness in the state of Rakhine in Myanmar. Many have found temporary shelter in Bangladesh. As of 2017, more than half of the 745,000 Rohingya who fled to Cox’s Bazaar were children, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

In such a protracted crisis, families, and especially children, need more than basic humanitarian assistance to grow and succeed in their efforts. The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) is assessing this 61 percent Refugee children in the world attend primary school – in low-income countries, dropping to less than half. High school enrollment is falling even lower. These numbers are more important than Rohingya. They indicate a significant population of under-educated children and young adults.

Impaired education can be measured by economic impact, Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) found in a recent study on education during this year’s pandemic. The study found that a quarter of a loss of learning during the crisis could result in a nearly two percent reduction in GDP in 2100.

“Mass All” for early refugee education

The multifaceted program of the Sesame Workshop aims to protect refugee families from long-term, long-term consequences, providing a basic educational need for children to the sixth year. For more than a year in development, Noor and Aziz have been part of nonprofits Play to learn a humanitarian initiative that reaches out to Rohingya children through partnerships with NGOs the International Rescue Committee (IRC) and the brackled BRAC. The initiative is also supported by the New York University International Research Center (NYU) Global TIES for Children and the LEGO Foundation.

The principle behind the program is to provide learning and healing to displaced children through play. In the show Noor and Aziz (among other famous characters from Sesame Street, like Elma) teach children about math and science, as well as social and emotional well-being and health and safety, writes Sesame Workshop in a press release, adding that the lessons are based on five characteristics of “playful experiences” that prepare the ground for learning: joyful, meaningful, actively engaged, iterative and socially interactive.

Rohingya refugee children attending classes in Bangladesh
Rohingya refugee children attending classes in Bangladesh (Credit: Sir Barnaby / Wiki Commons)

“Learning through play also helps children develop holistic skills, including creativity and socio-emotional skills, which are key to surviving and thriving in this rapidly changing world,” said Sarah Bouchie, Chief Impact Officer. Lego The foundation, which approved $ 100 million Play to learn initiatives, the press release said.

These lessons reach children through BRAC’s infrastructure, its humanitarian play labs and direct services. During the pandemic, BRAC and IRC field workers adapted services to include regular phone call sign-ups, as well as audio, written, and poster content specific to coronavirus-related needs. In the new year, presenters will be trained, and video segments, story books and printed educational materials will be integrated into direct services, the Sesame Workshop said in a press release.

Earlier this year, Sesame Street aired a new show in Arabic called Ahlan Simsim, translated Welcome Sesame, for Syrian children displaced in Syria, Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon. By implementing another program the same year, Sesame’s workshop demonstrates its reluctance to spread its response to refugees. “It’s a massive incentive,” explains the nonprofit Web page. “Because investing in these children is investing in a more peaceful and stable world for all.”

Development of a model for humanitarian assistance aimed at children

The sesame workshop estimated that its programs for Syrian refugees could reach 9 million children and families in scale and called Play to learn the the greatest intervention in early childhood any humanitarian response.

“One of the big gaps in humanitarian aid for so long has been that only about 3 percent of humanitarian aid goes to education, of which only a small portion goes to early childhood education,” Scott Cameron, executive producer Ahlan Simsim, he said Fast Company in January. “As a global community, we need to figure out ways to really create new models that will help children in need in these crisis environments.”

To further develop and scale their approach, Sesame Workshop and its partners are testing their educational methods for the first five years to determine which tools and strategies work best and connect with children. The study will double the amount of evidence available on which early education programs are most effective in crisis situations, Sesame Workshop writes on its website. Data will be shared with the humanitarian community to ensure that progress continues and does not rest on Muppet’s back alone.

“We look forward to sharing our findings with the entire humanitarian community so that we – and others – can better reach and teach the world’s most vulnerable children,” said Sherrie Westin, president of Global Impact and Philanthropy at Sesame Workshop, in press statement from NYU.

Image credit: Sesame Street / Facebook