By Alison Willmore | Indiewire June 6, 2012 at 12:56PM
A $20 million initiative to develop a Pakistani version of "Sesame Street" has been cut short due to allegations of corruption, according to a report from the AP.
"Sim Sim Hamara" first aired at the end of 2011 and was intended to go on for at least three seasons. Like other international co-productions of "Sesame Street," the show was adapted for its country's specific culture and needs, pairing familiar characters like Elmo with new ones like cricket-loving schoolgirl Rani, the "epitome of a traditional Pakistani woman" Baji and vain crocodile Haseen-O-Jameel. According to the AP:
The U.S. cut off funding for the project and launched an investigation after receiving what it deemed to be credible allegations of fraud and abuse on a telephone hotline set up by the U.S. Agency for International Development in Pakistan, said U.S. State Department spokesman Mark Toner. "So rather than to continue to throw good money after bad, we thought it was prudent to cut off this program and wait for the results of the investigation," Toner told reporters in Washington.
"Sim Sim Hamara" is the work of Lahore's Rafi Peer Theater Workshop, who partnered with the U.S.'s Sesame Workshop. While it seems fast on its way to being politicized -- the initiative was part of the U.S.'s multibillion-dollar aid program in Pakistan -- the show was meant to both increase tolerance and serve as a much-needed educational tool in a country in which one-third of children aren't in school. So far $6.7 million has been spent on the show -- on its Facebook page, someone pleads "Please keep this show running on Ptv. It is very good for Pakistani children's education."
There are over 20 global co-productions of "Sesame Street" -- the show has served not just as a teaching mechanism but as a way of informing about issues specific to their own regions. On Nigeria's "Sesame Square," the characters deal with AIDS, malaria nets, gender equality, while on Northern Ireland's "Sesame Tree," created to build "the Sesame model for respect and understanding curriculum across the sectarian divide," they learn about respecting differences. Here's a clip from "Sim Sim Hamara" in which Elmo looks at illustrations of birds.