Sesame Workshop India, the organisation behind Galli Galli Sim Sim (GGSS), 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.
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 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 GGSS radio programme on health, hygiene, nutrition, and socio-emotional wellbeing localised and aired on 10 community radio stations in North and Central India. 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.
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."
Sesame Workshop, Turner India, and Miditech Pvt. Ltd. Funding for the development phase of Galli Galli Sim Sim was provided by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and ICICI Bank. The Radiophone component is supported by Schwab Charitable Fund, Qualcomm Wireless Reach, and The Restoring Force (TRF, via HSBC).
"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. Image credit: Times of India, February 24 2012.