About the Author: Rick Snelsire serves as the Spokesperson for the U.S. Embassy Islamabad in Pakistan.
The United States has awarded $20 million to the Rafi Peer Theatre Workshop to support a four-year educational outreach program for children across Pakistan. In collaboration with the Ministries of Education and Information and Broadcasting, Rafi Peer will develop a multimedia program designed to build language, problem-solving, and analytical thinking skills.
"Through this initiative, Pakistani education and communication experts will have a vehicle to develop and provide educational content for Pakistani children," Lawrence Hardy, Acting Mission Director of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) said after the agreement was signed. “The messages will promote learning while reflecting Pakistani culture and values, based on the country's education curriculum.”
The four-year program will feature puppet-based television broadcasts, complementary radio programming using the same characters, and a dynamic website where children can interact with their favorite puppets. The project will also reach remote, rural areas, including conflict-affected districts, through live shows staged from vehicles set up as theaters. Thirty "district ambassadors" will also be trained to show prerecorded puppet programs on laptop computers.
"A project of this magnitude is a great opportunity for the children of Pakistan,” said Faizaan Peerzada of Rafi Peer. “Over four years and hopefully beyond, our children can grow up with this program, engaged in a creative learning process informally at their own pace.”
The Rafi Peer Theatre Workshop has been involved in television and radio programming, puppetry, theater, and the arts with schools and communities across Pakistan for 35 years. They will receive production and design assistance from the Sesame Workshop (formerly the Children's Television Workshop), an educational media nonprofit organization reaching more than 100 million children in 140 countries worldwide including Egypt, Jordan, and Indonesia, with its innovative promotion of literacy, math, science, and social development skills.