Over the Xmas holiday I bought a 500GB movie box full of action, thrillers, comedies, horror movies, classics etc. It also includes loads of children cartoons, movies and stories. This gadget was so full of entertainment we didn’t even realize our DSTV subscription had ran out as we weren’t watching it.
On one of those weekends, we decided to watch children programs with my kids and their cousins. Scrolling through contents of the box we found kiddies favorites like, Ben 10, Dora the Explorer, Alice in Wonderland, Mickey Mouse, Teletubies, Diego, Johnny Bravo etc. Each of the programs highlighted drew an aura of excitement from the kids. On getting to Sesame Street, a loud cheer came not from the kids but from the adults in the sitting room. To our huge surprise and dismay none of the kids knew or had even heard of Sesame Street. Flabbergasting isn’t It? Looking back who would have thought Sesame street could ever disappear from our screens.
Back then Sesame Street, was arguably the most watched program on Nigerian TV for kids. Who can forget Ernie and Bert, Oscar the Grouch, Big Bird etc? Big Bird the forever 6 year old asking all the questions you ever wish for. What about Ernie and Bert? Close friends but yet far apart in their approach to life. Bert liked pigeons and was very emotional while Ernie was a quintessential trickster. What about the cookie monster who was spiritually attached to cookies. As a kid I always imagined how a guy who liked cookies so much never took his time when eating it so much that most of it ended up on the ground. How can I forget Oscar the grouch! Always differing in opinions and making sure his own side is heard. And then there was Kermit the frog! The calm and most reasonable muppet around.There were so many more characters, muppet and human. A lot of folks like me, learnt how to count and pronounce, without the over bearing accent of our local teachers, by watching Sesame Street. What then has happened since the 90’s? Why has it disappeared from out TV screens? What are the kids missing?
You will have to point to the direction of Cable TV. With the advent of Cable TV in the 90’s people shifted their focus from local TV stations which for years was the only source of foreign programming. As cable came in programs previously unknown to a lot of Nigerians gradually disappeared. DSTV the then sole provider introduced the Cartoon Network, Kids Co which unfortunately didn’t have rights to show Sesame Street. Because of this most children born in the mid to late 90’s missed out on the best ever show produced for children. By Sesame streets 40 anniversary in 2009, it had become the most widely viewed children’s show in the world. Studies on the program reveals that through history Sesame Street had demonstrated an uncanny ability to have a positive effect on its young viewers. Children between the ages of 3 and 5 where mostly found to have watched and knew the characters of Sesame Street.
It’s difficult to estimate how much the kids of this generation are missing in terms of cultural influence , communication, intuition and general academic development especially in the ages between 2-5 years old as its impact can only be measured in years to come. I consider myself lucky to have the program in my movie box and have decided to introduce my kids to the most popular kiddies show ever. Ironically the shows opening theme “can you tell me how to get to Sesame Street” is aptly suited for our Cable TV providers. Let’s ask them, where is Sesame Street?