"I have met the executives of Pratham, who are doing a tremendous job in the field. I want to get involved even deeper by mobilizing my colleagues in Veolia Transport RATP Development and Metro One Operation in India alongside this effective organization."
Pratham, created in 1994 to provide preschool education to the slum children of Mumbai, has today become the biggest NGO working in the field of education with disadvantaged children across the whole of India. The nonprofit lends a hand to millions of children living in rural and urban areas, through a wide range of activities, to increase school attendance, improve learning and educational methods, and disseminate them as widely as possible, and to broaden the publics who benefit from the teaching. Its programs aim to supplement rather than replace government efforts: Memorandum of Understanding have been signed between Pratham and the governments of eight States to circulate its flagship program "Reading India" (learning to read), and Pratham works closely with the municipal authorities of the big cities like Mumbai and Delhi.
Thousands of women volunteers from disadvantaged districts
The nonprofit relies on thousands of unpaid volunteers. They are mainly women belonging to the same community as the children, who are trained and supervised by Pratham teams. They benefit not only from a program to reinforce their professional skills, but also acquire confidence, respect and better acceptance from the local community. Their empowerment, especially in the economically weakest levels of society and minority religious groups, is often singled out as one of Pratham's most significant contributions to the well-being of the communities in which it operates. Pratham has also become a powerful player in educational reform: its annual survey report on education is closely studied by the central governments and by the State in drawing up miscellaneous plans and political recommendations. The nonprofit's executives are all members of major decision making bodies. They are educators, professionals in development and media, as well as workers, militants, teachers and members of all levels of Indian society, united by a common project: to improve the future of Indian children.
A pilot program against child labor
In 2001, Pratham launched a pilot program to raise awareness in the fight against work by streetchildren and to try to integrate them into their families, the school and society. The original program targeted on Mumbai quickly spread to the states from where the children originated, combining prevention, integration and education of the communities. The nonprofit was then gradually led to take charge of handicapped children, orphans, victims of sexual or drug abuse. This program is operational today in seven states (Maharashtra, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Orissa): it affects nearly 15,000 children every year, in rural areas and cities. Its objectives: to prohibit child labor and to fight all forms of exploitation, to prepare them to rejoin the school system while improving their level of learning and making public opinion and the institutions aware of the defense of children's rights (work, maltreatment, handicap).
...which has spread to seven Indian States
The nonprofit has created six boarding homes to accommodate and educate the vulnerable children who were unable to rejoin their families: three in Mumbai and three in the State of Bihar, each accommodating some fifty children. They attend the primary and secondary schools of the city and go there in a bus leased by the association. The project proposed to the Foundation, and supported by several employees of Veolia Transportation in Mumbai, will enable Pratham to purchase a bus, thereby eliminating the high rental costs. Its use extends far beyond simple daily school transportation, to organize recreational activities of the children and their extracurricular activities, as well as local awareness raising campaigns.