Baghch-e-Simsim: Bringing Big Bird (& Co.) to Afghanistan
Today, six out of fourteen million Afghan children are deprived of education. Literacy in Afghanistan is estimated at 28.1% nationwide, and continued conflict and fragile stability impede the delivery of school supplies, enrollment, and school supervision. Additional obstacles to education vary from lack of funding to cultural norms.
Lapis believes that every single child has a right to education. In a country where less than two-thirds of Afghan children are enrolled in primary school, a rate that's even lower for girls, the need to tackle the educational deficit is essential for the future of Afghanistan. The development of cultural understanding and problem solving skills from an early age will benefit all facets of life in Afghanistan, from security and improved relations with neighboring Pakistan, to economic growth and an improved job market for Afghan citizens.
As the author Malcolm Gladwell has stated, “Sesame Street was built around a single, breakthrough insight: that if you can hold the attention of children, you can educate them”. The world-famous children’s television show has been broadcast in 140 countries, including in Afghanistan where Lapis developed and produced 104 episodes of the program under the Dari name “Baghch-e-Simsim”.
Broadcasting in Dari and Pashto on Afghanistan’s top two television channels, TOLO and LEMAR, Baghch-e-Simsim utilizes a strong visual style, fast-moving action, humor, and music, as well as animation and live-action short films to deliver its message that children’s education in Afghanistan can shape the country’s future for the better. In addition to lessons based on literacy, maths and life skills, Baghch-e-Simsim integrates local issues such as education for girls and Afghanistan’s cultural heritage and diversity, with all ethnic groups depicted within its production.
By holding the attention of Afghanistan’s children through its encapsulating nature, Baghch-e-Simsim teaches them how to develop pro-social behavior skills such as cooperation, helping and sharing.
As a result of watching the show, children’s self-esteem and feelings of competency were more likely to grow as was their social competence, tolerance of diversity, and nonaggressive ways of resolving conflict – essential attributes in a country of Afghanistan’s ethnic and social makeup.
Baghch-e-Simsim has turned into one of the most powerful education platforms in Afghanistan, with Baghch-e-Simsim having the highest total awareness among children's programs at 86%. Baghch-e-Simsim is cited as children's favorite program by far, (48%) as reported by primary caregivers. Furthermore, cowatching between children and caregivers is high, given the generally low level of educational among caregivers and heads of households, with 78% stating that they have ever watched BSS with their children, 67% have watched in the past month, and 38% always cowatch. 82% of caregivers cowatch Baghch-e-Simsim in Urban areas, and 72% in rural areas
When given a test episode and monitored, children remain engaged for approximately 95% of the show. 37% of children watching engaged in some form of behavioral response (smiles, laughing, clapping, etc.), and 100% of children liked the episode "a lot".
Overall, 56% of respondents state that there is nothing to dislike about Baghch-e-Simsim. Furthermore, it is confirmed that Baghch-e-Simsim is broadcasting on the channels with the greatest reach to children, as 27% of children watch TOLO, and 11% watch LEMAR. These are channels 1 and 4 respectively (for children's viewership) and combines to 38% of children being reached overall, making it one of Afghanistan's most innovative approaches to educational programming.