U.S. terminates support of $20 million Pakistani “Sesame Street” project

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Following reports of corruption, the U.S. Embassy in Pakistan has terminated $20 million in funding for to develop a Pakistani version of Sesame Street, according to the Associated Press, citing a report in Pakistan Today.

The USAID money was funding the Rafi Peer Theater Workshop, a local group working on the program with Sesame Workshop. Embassy spokesman Robert Raines confirmed that the funding was terminated but declined to provide details.

Pakistan Today, citing unnamed sources close to the project, said “lack of proper planning, mismanagement and financial irregularities have all been rampant throughout the project, leading to an initial delay of a year and a half and finally the suspension of aid.”

Rafi Peer has denied the allegations, and said the U.S. government ended its participation after providing $10 million due to lack of funds.

UPDATE: Sesame Workshop provided this statement to Current.

“Sesame Workshop was surprised and dismayed to learn about the serious allegations made against Rafi Peer Theatre Workshop. Beyond what we have read in the press, we do not know the specific details of these allegations. We trust that the facts will be fairly and fully assessed, and we will wait for the full report.  It is our hope that the achievements of Sim Sim Hamara, and the gains we have made in the lives of children in Pakistan, will carry on. 
“When Rafi Peer was selected by USAID in 2010 to work on Sim Sim Hamara, a multi-platform children’s educational media program, Sesame Workshop was selected independently by USAID as one of the sub-award recipients on the project. We are grateful for USAID’s initial investment which has allowed Sesame Workshop to provide its expertise in children’s media to help Rafi Peer reach three million children, many of whom otherwise would not have access to any early childhood education.

“Sesame Workshop will continue to work to improve the lives and futures of children in Pakistan and elsewhere around the world.”

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