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New Rohingya muppets help educate refugee children4 min read

December 23, 2020 4 min read

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New Rohingya muppets help educate refugee children4 min read

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Sesame Street is a popular US children’s TV show that brought us Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggie, Elmo, and other wonderful characters. The company recently created two new muppets to help educate children from the Rohingya community.

A muppet helping a Rohingya child with art. Photo: Sesame Street
Aziz and Noor.
Photo: Sesame Street

The Rohingya are a group of Muslims from Myanmar who were driven out from their own country and live in the world’s largest refugee camp in Bangladesh with their families.

How will the muppets help?

The muppets are twins – six-year-old Aziz and Noor – who will teach these children via educational videos, covering subjects such as math and science. The children will also be educated in social and emotional wellbeing.

“These are two very special Sesame Muppets – for most Rohingya children, Noor and Aziz will be the very first characters in media who look and sound like them,” Sherrie Westin, of the show’s non-profit arm, Sesame Workshop, was quoted saying.

Other Sesame Street characters such as the Cookie Monster, are also part of this awareness campaign. Photo: Sesame Street

“Rooted in the rich Rohingya culture and informed by extensive research and input from Rohingya families, Noor and Aziz will bring the transformative power of playful learning to families at a time when it’s needed more than ever before,” she had added.

Julia, the autistic muppet.
Photo: Sesame Street

Owliver’s Obscure Facts: Sesame Street introduced a new character in 2017 called Julia – a four-year-old child with autism. The aim was spread awareness on the condition and help children understand it better. Autism is a developmental illness that affects the ability to communicate and interact.  It impacts the nervous system and takes a toll on many aspects of life, such as the physical and emotional health of a person. It can be detected in people as young as two!

But who are the Rohingya?

Members of the community as a refugee camp. Photo: concernusa.org

The Rohingya are one of Myanmar’s many ethnic minorities. In 2017, there were about a million members of the community living in Myanmar. Rohingya Muslims represent the largest percentage of Muslims in Myanmar, with the majority living in Rakhine State. They have their own language and culture.

Why did they leave Myanmar?

Unfortunately, Myanmar’s government does not recognise the Rohingya as legal citizens. The government claims they were brought to Rakhine from Bangladesh back when Myanmar was a British colony, and the government says they are living in Myanmar illegally. The Rohingya, however, say they have been in the region for over a century!

A view of a refugee camp in Bangladesh. Photo: aljazeera.com

Since 2017, more than 700,000 Rohingya refugees from Myanmar have fled to Bangladesh. They joined more two lakh at Cox’s Bazar district who had fled years before. Today, about 860,000 homeless refugees live in the camp, about half of whom are children.

Can they go back home?

This map shows the number of refugee camps and the population living at each as of 2018. Photo: ResearchGate

In March 2019, Bangladesh announced that it would no longer take in any more Rohingya people from Myanmar. Though an agreement was reached in 2018 for the refugees to go back, they refused as they fear for the safety back in Myanmar, and demand they get citizenship. Also, a lot of their homes and villages were burnt down before the fled, so they say they have nothing to go back to. In January 2020, the United Nations ordered Myanmar to take measures to protect members of its Rohingya community, so that more are not forced to leave.  

Sources: BBC, The Guardian