"All agree that the single most important key to development and poverty alleviation is education. This must start with universal primary education for girls and boys equally". - James D. Wolfenhousen, President World Bank
Education, today, is a fundamental right in India, according to the 93rd Constitutional Amendment Bill. This Bill, while stressing on quality and accessible education, also talks of sharing of responsibilities between different levels of government. Education being an essential right of citizens, the need for community participation in ensuring adequate and quality education to all cannot be over emphasized. It is a firm belief that government and non-government institutions have a major role to play in this aspect. In spite of the constitutional provisions and efforts made by the government, the educational status of the Indian masses after 56 years of independence continues to be defined as backward. The disadvantaged social groups and women have not been able to access educational facility as they should have had. Universalisation of pre-school education is an important strategy for achieving universalisation of primary education. If a child can avail of some kind of early childhood education, the chances are high that the child will go on to regular school. Moreover, the pre-school exposure will enhance and strengthen the child's subsequent school performance, in terms of achievement and attendance.
Pratham was established as a Public Charitable Trust by the Commissioner of the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai, UNICEF and several prominent citizens of the country in 1994 to tackle the problem of universalisation of primary education in Mumbai by creating a societal mission.
UNICEF parented Pratham during the initial three years, and in 1997, ICICI Bank took over. Today, Pratham initiatives have spread all across India and local trusts have been established all over the country. The organization is based on a triangular partnership: corporate sector, government and the citizens. In each city, corporate leaders have taken the lead, the government has responded by opening its schools and sharing its facilities, and community volunteers, mostly young enthusiastic women from the slums, implement the programmes. The Pratham model is simple to implement and easily replicable. No immovable assets are required unless a donor specifically requests and the need is clearly established. Administrative costs are kept low. Today, Pratham initiatives are active in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Maharastra, Karnataka, Gujarat and several other places.
The main goal of Pratham is to ensure that every child is in school and is learning well in an environment that is mentally stimulating and physically attractive, with the teachers who are committed, dedicated, skilled and happy. The teacher should be able to teach children not only the essentials of reading, writing and arithmetic but also good living habits including personal hygiene, clean and healthy environment and respect for other people, their beliefs and their properties within a
community that cherishes and provides its best to children\u2019s care and development. It believes that this could be achieved by working in collaboration with the local government to improve access to schools and its current practices \u2013mainly pedagogical and managerial. Pratham strives towards building a working partnership in the field of education between the people and the government by creating programmes to supplement the municipal school system, rather than supplant it by seeking to make governance of education more effective through people\u2019s democratic participation, it aims at a private-public partnership to address issues related to education and arriving at solutions to be put into practice. Though Pratham can be referred to as a non-governmental organization (NGO) or a non-profit organization, in actuality, it is a platform that brings together the local self- government, the corporate sector and the voluntary sector to achieve "Universal Primary Education" in India. The \u201ccomplete coverage\u201d approach, coupled with close links and cooperation with the government, distinguishes it from other non- governmental organizations. Today, Pratham initiatives have spread all across India. Pratham family is reaching out to over 2, 20,552 children and mainstreaming over 30,000 children across the country.
All Pratham instructors and full-time activists are from the local community; the vast majority being young women. A Pratham employee starts as an instructor in one of the core programmes. She rises to leadership positions within the Pratham network based on her skills as a communicator, trainer or community mobilizer.
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