...[W]e paid particular attention to disenfranchised groups: migrants who have no access to regular education, girls who must cope with gender discrimination at several levels and families that are left out of the social and technological changes sweeping the country."
Sesame Workshop India, the organisation behind Galli Galli Sim Sim (GGSS) [see Related Summaries, below], uses the power of the media in an effort to help children reach their highest potential. The organisation develops and distributes content to engage children aged 0-8 through television, radio, community radio, print, digital, and outreach. This content aims to facilitate young Indian children's basic academic and life skills, while celebrating India's cultural diversity, in order to promote their overall cognitive, socio-emotional, and physical development. GGSS, the television series, has been watched by 10 million children each year since its debut in 2006 and has been broadcast on national cable channels - Pogo and Cartoon Network - and national public broadcaster Doordarshan. Its educational messages are extended through a radio programme aired on All India Radio and community radio (CR) stations, community outreach, and applications on new and emerging media such as cell phones and internet and through a presence in the preschool education space.
Sesame Workshop says that, in India, millions of families are cut off from valuable information that can help children to grow up healthy, happy, and ready to learn. As a part of its mission to help children reach their highest potential, Sesame Workshop in India started the Radiophone project. Launched in 2011 with 31 radio episodes and one community radio station, the project now reaches 10 diverse CR stations in north and central India with 91 radio episodes. These radio episodes include messaging on teaching children to love, understand, and celebrate India's diverse culture, as well as fostering health, hygiene, good nutrition, socio-emotional wellbeing and math and literacy. The radio episodes are made available live on CR stations, are streamed on webservers, and are available on the phone through a dial-in number which requires a toll-free phone call.
June 2015 update: The bulk of the project lasted two-and-a-half years, although some stations continue to broadcast the show. The 10 stations continued to broadcast until mid-2013. Some stations are still airing the shows, whereas others discontinued after three broadcasts.
The Radiophone project was designed to address the educational needs of disenfranchised children through a convergence of the latest 3G technology. The project provides entertaining educational content and a platform for underserved communities to voice issues of concern through community media. Through the project, Sesame Workshop India also promotes community-level advocacy, stimulating policy changes to improve access to services.
The Radiophone project has introduced a CR-station-specific phone number to enable access to radio content over phones (landline or mobile). The listener can leave a missed call on their local number and wait for the system to call back. They can then listen to their favourite episodes and leave feedback by calling this number. This allows the information to reach them without affecting them financially. "We listen to GGSS radio program even though we don't have a radio. All we have to do is dial a toll free number through which we listen to the episode over the mobile phone," says Fakhruddin, who listens to the GGSS radio episodes daily along with his son Aasru.
The GGSS Radiophone initiative aims to address the educational needs of disenfranchised children aged 2 to 8 in economically poor communities through a convergence of technologies. In addition to community-level advocacy to promote policy changes that improve access to services, the project merges mobile technology with radio to extend the reach of the educational content. It includes:
- 91 episodes of the GGSS radio programme on health, hygiene, nutrition, and socio-emotional wellbeing localised and aired on 10 community radio stations in North and Central India. The content is light-hearted with a serious message and is delivered in an entertaining manner by GGSS Muppets: Grover is the narrator, and Chamki and Googly are the main characters. Boombah and Aanchoo join the programme, and human characters such as Ahmed Chacha and Doctor Aunty round off the cast of characters.GGSS is also supporting expansion and update of the Gramin Rural Interface Network System (GRINS) to participating community radio stations. Training has been imparted to all radio stations to localise the GGSS radio episodes and run the GRINS applications to track calls and manage the programme.
- Interaction with the radio programme through telephone and internet interfaces. Listeners can call in to the station and receive a call back with a prerecorded message that provides instructions on how to listen to up to seven previous episodes.
The radio episodes include stories, songs, and call-and-response interactions that get children out of their seats to clap, stomp, and repeat aloud - and learn in the process. In addition to addressing educational needs and learning, the episodes establish the importance of local community issues and the daily concerns of the community. For instance, segments include Chamki, the star of GGSS, interviewing neighbours in the local broadcast area. GGSS episodes intend to engage and entertain children, caregivers, and the communities at the same time. "Through GGSS I saw Chamki instantly connecting with the children, and I thought I too could learn from that," says Vandana, reporter and radio jockey with Gurgaon Ki Awaaz.
Community participation has been at the core of the Radiophone Project. For instance, Sesame Workshop invited the CR stations to review the content plan and to collaborate on integrating this new children's programme within their broadcast schedules and community interactions. The project also provided an opportunity for CR stations to collaborate with local schools. Station staff members approached schools as a way of informing children about the programme and also to hear about the impact of the show once it began airing. The radio stations further localise the content by adding a community segment at the end of each episode. These segments focus on specific themes that are locally relevant and are scripted and produced by the CR stations. In all, the 10 CR stations have produced more than 400 localised community segments, which can be used beyond the life of the project. In addition, each GGSS episode has a vox pop (voice of the people) segment, with pre-recorded voices from the community talking about specific themes.
To increase community participation about local issues, the programme design required all CR stations to further organise community events after the launch. CR stations brought together local leaders, key opinion leaders, regular listeners of the programme, and other members of the community to discuss what had been identified through the programme. The 10 CR stations held 60 events. These events were designed to raise awareness around issues of local importance and relevance, such as various schemes announced by the Government of India to increase children's attendance in schools, information under the Right to Education Act, efforts to improve access to education for girls, and the need to improve sanitation and environmental conditions in the community (e.g. trash disposal and water conservation).
Early Childhood Development, Education, Health, Nutrition.
According to Sashwati Banerjee, Managing Trustee, Sesame Workshop India Trust, the GGSS initiative "has been capitalizing on technology to teach children of rural or marginalized populations. With expansion of community radio initiative across these places, Galli Galli Sim Sim is building an innovative and sustainable model that can be replicated to bring quality early learning experiences to disadvantaged children across India. Through our initiative we also aim to create awareness among the community on Right to Education Act - roles and responsibilities of various institutions, right of the child and that of a parent." It reaches approximately 1.4 million people, including 200,000 children. Over 70,000 calls were received on Radiophone in a year.
Ideosync Media Combine (IMC) conducted qualitative and quantitative research. CR station staff filled out diaries, and community focus groups generated mind maps. IMC also collected Most Significant Change (MSC) stories based on discussions with the CR station. Researchers visited families and analysed data from the Gramin Rural Interface Network System (GRINS). The quantitative study included Learning Outcome Workshops held both before and after broadcasts. Fifty children between the ages of five and eight were assigned to a treatment group where they had access to the GGSS programme content through CR, and 50 children were assigned to a control group that did not have that access. Overall, around 550 coded diaries and 80 mind maps were generated. Multivariate regression analyses found that the GGSS programme had a statistically significant impact on children in five out of six outcome measures: social health, literacy, health and hygiene, language, environmental awareness and emotional health. These effects were over and above the influence of children's performance at baseline, age, and family income. Sample findings:
- 30% of stories showed changes in quality of life in listeners.
- 34% showed changes in children's learning levels.
- 12% indicated behaviour changes as a result of the radio show.
- There was a three-fold improvement in vocabulary and storytelling ability in children exposed to GGSS content.
Sesame Workshop collaborates with: Gram Vaani, a social tech company, which helped design the radio-over-telephone interface and supports the CR stations in managing data from the Gramin Rural Interface Network System (GRINS); The Restoring Force, which provides health, education, and livelihood opportunities to rural children (they participated in the pilot phase and helped design the current Radiophone project); and Ideosync Media Combine (IMC), specialists in development communication, which conducted research at each stage of the project. Other partners have included Turner India and Miditech Pvt. Ltd. Financial support has been provided by Schwab Charitable Fund, Qualcomm Wireless Reach, and The Restoring Force.
"Galli Galli Sim Sim Uses Technology to Improve Lives of Marginalised Children", OneWorld South Asia, October 10 2012; and emails from June Lee to The Communication Initiative on January 25 2013 and January 29 2013; and "The Radiophone Project: Technology and Storytelling, Together Changing Rural Children's Lives" - sent from June Lee to The Communication Initiative on June 5 2015. Image credit: Times of India, February 24 2012.