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Indian NGO Pratham gets $9.1 million

The initiative of the Read India organisation is to promote reading and basic arithmetic in children, writes Shalini Kathuria Narang.
None | By Shalini Kathuria Narang
UPDATED ON JUL 18, 2007 03:08 PM IST

In recognition and support of community based grass root organisation- Pratham's efforts in promoting early literacy initiatives for the disadvantaged children in India via its community reach programs to improve the learning in basic math, reading and writing amongst sixty million children in India as a part of its Read India initiative, two of the world's largest philanthropic organisations, i.e. the William and Flora Hewlett and Bill and Melinda Gates foundations have granted Pratham $9.1 million.

The initiative of the Read India organisation is to promote reading, writing, and basic arithmetic in children and the organisation is working with Indian state governments to help ensure that children between the ages of 6 and 14 achieve basic mastery in the math, reading and writing skills by the end of 2009. The grant approved in June this year will help Pratham extend its Read India campaign to 100 districts of India, impacting 10 million children spread over 10 states for three years.

The gift to Pratham is the first donation that the two foundations have awarded in their partnership to improve the quality of education in developing countries. The two biggest philanthropies have joined hands to fund myriad initiatives to improve the quality of education at primary and secondary schools in the developing world and have committed $60 million for improving the learning outcomes.

The Read India project, which was launched in January this year, will be executed in two aptly named phases called the learning to read and reading to learn programs. The grant will also support a rigorous evaluation of the program leading to the large-scale expansion of the model to improve the learning levels of children in language, mathematics, physical and social sciences and life skills.

The Read India initiative is a phased programs that will focus on four major components introducing learning to read activities in the schools, creating and supplying reading and learning materials to teachers, involving mothers in their children's learning, and mobilizing youth groups in helping teachers, children, and parents.

The program is an important step in the efforts to end the cycle of poverty perpetuated by illiteracy and poor education. As part of its mission, Pratham volunteers and supporters are working to ensure that every Indian child is in school and learning well, enabling India to eliminate childhood illiteracy in India and on track to meet the UN millennium education goals.

Dr Madhav Chavan, Pratham co-founder and Director of Programs, thanked the two foundations and said, "Thousands of members of the Pratham network are pleased with the generous grant and it is an endorsement of our mission, strategy, and ability to deliver on a large scale."

Hewlett Foundation President Paul Brest opines, "We are pleased that Pratham's Read India initiative is the first grant recipient of the collaboration between the Hewlett and Gates foundations. The goal is to leverage the resources of both foundations to address a key barrier of lack of genuine educational opportunities affecting the poor. It also is an implicit recognition that profound social problems are interrelated and it's hard to reduce poverty, improve health or raise the status of women without extending access to quality education to the needy."

Brest said the Read India initiative is a good example of the type of grants that the foundations plans to award because it holds the promise of large-scale impact on a major societal need combined with rigorous evaluation allowing the methodology to be scaled to other parts of the developing world.

Mahalingham Ramesh, president of Pratham USA, said, "In addition to this generous grant, our goal is to raise $15 million in additional funding in the next two years through major sponsorships and individual donations to provide 500 more districts with the necessary resources of staff, volunteers and measurement of results."

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