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.