Bidaya to complement children’s education in Gulf states

10 Jul 2013

Iftah Ya Simsim (Sesame Street) returns to GCC

A new company has been created to complement educational efforts in literacy, basic mathematical skills and language abilities for young children.  Bidaya (Arabic for “Beginning”) has been established at twofour54, Abu Dhabi’s media and creative hub, to create high-quality educational media content in Arabic for the Arab Gulf States, with the debut of new content in the next few weeks.

Bidaya’s inaugural project will be the Iftah Ya Simsim Educational Initiative, an Arabic-language adaptation of Sesame Street, utilizing a proven model formulated by Sesame Workshop, the non-profit educational organization whose global mission is to help all children reach their highest potential. Initial support for Bidaya comes through a sponsorship from Mubadala Development Company as part of its commitment to foster education among youth.

Bidaya will seek out the best local talent to recreate the magic of the first Arabic adaptation of Sesame Street that enchanted children over 20 years ago. In addition to the TV series, the company plans to produce a variety of media content with the objective of achieving measurable educational gains for children in early school years. Bidaya will be using twofour54’s broadcasting and production facilities; while twofour54’s creative lab community will support Bidaya by identifying and sourcing local talent.

“Our strategy is to establish relationships with public and private institutions from across the region that have a passion for children and understand the importance of education,” said Robert Knežević, Vice President of Sesame Street International. “This initiative represents the best practices, methodologies and global experience to create local content that is unique to Sesame Street – appealing, practical, developmentally appropriate, and relevant to parents as well as children.”

“We are excited that the home for the new Iftah Ya Simsim will be at twofour54. Creating locally relevant, Arabic language content for present and future generations is about realizing our vision. The fact that the Bidaya team will be working closely with young, talented Emiratis and other Arabs makes the return of Iftah Ya Simsim even more special ,” said Noura Al Kaabi, CEO of twofour54.

“Our sponsorship of Bidaya fits perfectly into Mubadala’s commitment to youth and our community engagement program,” said Amina Taher, head of Mubadala’s community engagement program.  “Promoting a fun and engaging way to learn about basic numeracy, literacy, and healthy lifestyles are core to Sesame Street, which is why we believe strongly in its educational mission.”

Iftah Ya Simsim will be supported by an Educational Advisory Council (EAC) to be comprised of education experts and media professionals. The first meeting of the EAC will be held in July, and the Council will work in coordination with the Arab Bureau of Education for the Gulf States (ABEGS), which has developed educational focus areas for the new Iftah Ya Simsim and related content.

“We recognize media’s potential as an educational tool,” said Dr. Ali Al Karni, Director General of ABEGS, “especially as new technologies are attracting our children’s attention.” He added, “Iftah Ya Simsim is one of our proud traditions celebrating our respect for education and our love for children.”

Various organizations from across the region have already pledged support and cooperation with the Iftah Ya Simsim Educational Initiative including the GCC Joint Program Production Institution. The original Iftah Ya Simsim first aired in the Middle East and North Africa region between 1979 and 1990.

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