Photo by Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images.
The United States has pulled funding for a $20 million project to develop a Pakistani version of Sesame Street. The reason? Apparently the local puppet theater working on the project is corrupt, according to reports from a Pakistani paper.
If you're wondering why the U.S. was funding a children's puppet show in the country in the first place, the Associated Press explains that the initiative was designed to provide a counterpoint to radical views and to improve education in a country where a large percentage of primary school-aged kids receive no formal education. (The U.S. government has worked with the producers of the iconic American version of the show to produce foreign versions for about 20 countries.)
Rafi Peer Theater Workshop was working in conjunction with the American-run Sesame Workshop to produce the Pakistani series, called Sim Sim Hamara, which aired its first episode in December. The show featured Elmo and a cast of Pakistani characters, and had been expected to run for three seasons.
Pakistan Today reported on Tuesday that sources close to the project cite widespread inefficiency and the mishandling of aid money, including the use of U.S. money to pay off old debts and the awarding of contracts to relatives, as the reasons behind the end to the funding. The project had received half of the alloted funding before it was pulled.
U.S. officials haven't elaborated on the reasons for the termination of the project. Meanwhile, the Rafi Peer Theater Workshop told the AP that the U.S. canceled the project because of a lack of additional funds, and denied the corruption allegations. The group is seeking alternative funding sources so the project can continue.