Elmo is bringing students and teachers together in Iraq

Hands shot up across Dunia’s third-grade classroom as she asked questions about clean water, handwashing, and hygiene. This was not her average math session that she usually teaches. Today, Dunia was facilitating a lesson developed in partnership with Sesame Street to teach kids about WASH: Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene, and her students could not have been more excited about it. Bursting to answer, many of the girls jumped right out of their seats.

Dunia normally teaches math to 31 girls in Kore School in Sumel, Kurdistan Region of Iraq. For the next three weeks, however, Dunia has new sessions to teach the girls, and she has a couple of special helpers named Elmo and Raya.

World Vision teamed up with Sesame Street to develop a curriculum to teach children about Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene. New character Raya joined the ever famous Elmo in order to make these important lessons on safe water, hand-washing, garbage disposal, and much more easy for children to understand and remember. The teaching materials include story books, a story mat, songs, games, and videos designed to make learning both easy and fun.

Dunia shared that even in the first few sessions the Sesame Street curriculum has helped her to build relationships and connect with her students in a new and engaging way. “The children like the lessons,” shared Dunia. “They understand it very well.” Dunia has already seen a change in the way the girls behave at school. “Before the Sesame Street lessons they would throw rubbish everywhere, but now they use the bins.”


Sesame Street with World Vision is reaching across Iraq

For this school year, World Vision Iraq, through World Vision US private funds, trained and provided the Sesame Street curriculum to 80 teachers in Northern Iraq. Through 16 sessions the children learn and are encouraged to go home and share what Elmo has taught them with their families. While WASH Up! has been implemented World Vision has been able to combine this program with special gifts of Elmo toys from World Vision Australia private donors. The Elmo toys not only serve as a toy for children who have been affected by conflict in Iraq, they also help children to engage in learning about water, sanitation, and hygiene. Taking their own Elmo home, children also have an avenue to share with their parents the lessons that Elmo has taught them in Child Friendly Learning Spaces in camps, as well as in schools, like Kore School. In the upcoming lessons, Dunia’s class will each receive their very own Elmo to take home.

With new activities to experience in the WASH Up! program, children are able to learn through methods that relate to them. Adraeya, a shy but spirited 8 year old displaced from Sinjar, shared that she loves to be active. Her favorite time in school is when they have sports classes. In the WASH Up! Program, Adraeya’s favorite activity is the game where they get to be water, soap, and microbes.

From building relationships between teachers and students to raising awareness of WASH in schools and homes across this country, the Sesame Street Program is having a tremendous impact in Iraq. Seeing the smiles on the faces of students and hearing them talk about safe water and the importance of not wasting it shows the power of education to shape communities and build a better future.