A Visit to a Pratham Project in New Delhi by Pratham Ace Graca Nicholson

 

Picture a narrow dead-end alley overshadowed by tall buildings with small channels carrying waste water running on either side. It is 11am and the alley is quiet apart from a few stray dogs which lie listlessly on the damp path.

 

The end of the alley runs into a corridor under a tenement block with no natural light and illuminated by one weak bulb. It is a scene that Charles Dickens would have instantly recognised in Victorian London.

We stand at the entrance of a damp, windowless, ground floor dwelling which is full of noise and activity. A Pratham teacher is operating out of her own very small one room home with the bed pushed against the wall. She is supervising the activity of a room of perhaps 15 children under the age of five who are reading, writing, counting, reciting poetry and learning English. The happiness on the faces of the youngsters is infectious and a joy to see: you know that they are all delighted to be there even thought many appeared to suffer from the coughs and colds that are inevitable under such damp conditions.

Thinking back to your  own early school days you can only marvel that such young children have learned so much under such difficult conditions.

Escorted by three Pratham organisers who are responsible for operations in the area, we visit a further three schoolrooms and a teacher training facility which operates in a local unfurnished basement where, over a three day training course, the trainees learn how to make the material interesting and entertaining to their young charges.  They are all very enthusiastic.

 There are 500 similar one room schools across New Delhi which are financed by Pratham.  It is impossible to visit any of these projects without being profoundly impressed by the importance of the work.

The next time you are in India try to visit a Pratham project. For me it was a paradigm changer.

My first love by Suhashini

It’s got to be The adventures of Tom Sawyer  by Mark Twain. It is about an imaginative and mischievous young boy growing up along Mississippi river in Missouri.
As a child, I was developing an appetite for adventurous plots, especially after having read the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys series as soon as my reading got up to speed. I was in grade 5 then and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer was part of my reading lessons for English literature. Although we were to read one chapter per week at school, I came home after the first lesson and read the whole book in one go. It was too good to put aside for the rest of the term.


I fell in love with Tom’s outdoorsy and rebellious character. As he went from playing hooky from school, to tricking his friends to do his work, to chancing upon a murder in a graveyard with his best mate, Huckleberry Finn, the plot developed thick and fast. In my head, Tom was me, and Huckleberry, my loyal friend. Their story taught me to surpass real or imagined boundaries, and most importantly, got me hooked to the joyful habit of reading.

Suhashini, London.

First Love

FIRST LOVE at Pratham UK

For International Literacy Day we are celebrating the joy that reading can inspire in all of us and the impact the book we first fall in love with can have on the rest of our lives.

What was your first literary love? The first book that enchanted you, took over your senses and led you in to new realms and the depths of your imagination? We’d love to hear your stories!

On September 7th, the eve of International Literacy Day, we will be posting our top five findings and also we’ll also feature your stories right here on the Pratham Aces blog

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So, all we ask is for you to send us 50 to 100 words on the book that you first fell in love with and why.

Please send your entry with the subject header First Love to office@pratham.org.uk 

For Twitter tell your friends by using the hashtag #firstlove.

A Visit to Pratham’s Learning Centres in Delhi and Lucknow

By Amar Sohal
President, UCLU Indian Society, 2011-12 

Maulana Azad, freedom fighter and independent India’s first Education Minister, dreamt that one day all of India’s children would receive at least a ‘basic education’. This ‘birth right’ had to be granted not only on moral grounds, but in order to allow India’s emerging generations to be able to ‘fully discharge’ their ‘duties as citizens’ and achieve their potential. That Pratham shares this yet to be fulfilled dream, was what inspired us at the University College London Union (UCLU) Indian Society to initiate a relationship with the charity by organising a sponsored fast back in January.

On my recent trip to northern India, I was kindly given the opportunity to visit Pratham’s urban learning centres in Delhi and Lucknow. What struck me most on each of my visits was the enthusiasm with which the children participated in their classes. In contrast to London, where education is too often taken for granted, these children, especially the elder students, sense the value of an education. On speaking to the young boys and girls, it becomes obvious that they are fully aware that Pratham, with its extensive base of volunteers and teachers, has the ability to help them climb the social ladder and one day part with the impoverished neighbourhoods in which they live today. Couple this enthusiasm with the sheer commitment of their teachers and programme coordinators – who have systems in place to meticulously track each child’s progress – and each Pratham donor can be rest assured that their generous contributions are being put to good use. That targets for children and teachers are regularly set, and parents are kept updated on their child’s progress makes the Pratham system as good as any other.

While Pratham focuses largely on educating children aged six to fourteen, a fair number of pre-school classes have been setup too. Here children are encouraged to sing popular rhymes and are given basic language and mathematics skills. But above all, Pratham offers these children a chance to mix with their peers and become accustomed to a classroom atmosphere before being admitted into a local school. Indeed, harnessing the social skills of these youngsters is a vital service which Pratham is engaging in.

There is no doubt that Pratham is doing India a great social service, and statistics show continuous improvements in induction and literacy levels. However, limited funds mean schooling facilities remain far from perfect. In sweltering heat, fifteen to twenty students share one fan between them, and many classrooms are without desks and chairs. Only if donors like you and I provide the charity with even more funds, can Pratham’s humanitarian service be enhanced further by eliminating these shortcomings.

Visiting Pratham’s centres was an eye-opening experience, one that has made me more determined to assist this noble charity from London. Lastly, I would just like to thank Swati and Chanchal in Delhi, as well as Babita, Zeba, Gulfisha and Tabassum in Lucknow for arranging my visits. Keep up the good work!