Back to Home Page Print March 16, 2006

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice mingles with students
during her visit to Al Ma'Muriyah madrasah in Cikini, Central Jakarta
 on Tuesday. (JP/R. Berto Wedhatama)
Rice leads the way for local 'Sesame Street'

Local children, like millions of others around the world, will be able to find their way to Sesame Street to join Big Bird, Cookie Monster and the gang when the educational TV series comes to the country.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice announced Tuesday the Indonesian version of the show -- to be funded with a US$8.5 million grant from the U.S. government through USAID -- during a visit to Al Ma'Muriyah madrassah in Cikini, Central Jakarta.

The series, scheduled to debut in 2007, will be designed and developed by USAID, Sesame Workshop and local educators and child development experts, the U.S. Embassy said in a release.

While there were protests to her two-day visit in other parts of the city, the school's children greeted Rice by waving U.S. and Indonesian flags.

She toured the school, funded through the Bush administration's $157 million education initiative for Indonesia, and stopped by second and sixth grade classrooms.

Students asked her a number of questions, including on her full name. "Just call me Condoleezza," she responded of her name, which her parents chose from the Italian music expression con dolcezza (with sweetness).

Rice, who was accompanied by an Elmo puppet from the series, expressed interest in the diverse curriculum.

"We visited an Islamic school, and they were cute and well-behaved," the 51-year-old former provost of Stanford University was quoted as saying by Internet portal.

"They are studying mathematics and other sciences. Americans should come here to see what a madrassah is."

Most of the young students seemed unclear about America's first African-American female secretary of state as they waited for her to arrive, with some assuming she was a "bule" (Caucasian), "like other Americans".

Others stated, a bit confusingly, that she was the "former candidate for the next president of the United States", although their description may be prescient, with political pundits predicting Rice could vie for the presidency in the future. -- JP