Diwali is the Festival of Light. All of India lights up during Diwali. Every home is lit with lamps signifying the eternal and universal message of Diwali – Embrace Light, Remove Darkness.
(तमसो मा ज्योतिर गमय – Lead me from Darkness to Light – invocation from Brihad-Aranyka-UpaNiSad )
Today, India is a poor country and its underprivileged children are victims to various types of darkness. There are many dedicated organizations working tirelessly to improve the condition of India’s needy. This is the story of one such dedicated group.
We all use the phrase “when you set your mind to it, you can do anything“. We all understand the primacy of mind over matter. But the mind itself can be enveloped in darkness. How does one free the mind, especially the minds of underprivileged children?
By embracing the light of education. By making education the Pratham goal, the first and foremost goal.
As one man puts it:
- “I had friends working for women’s liberation. I had friends working for popularisation of science. I said to them – none of these things you want to do are possible if people cannot read and write.”
That man began his Pratham work in 1994 with one Balwadi, a children’s school in the slums of Mumbai. He and his co-founder built on their initial success. Today, their Pratham step has led to educational programs in 17 of India’s 28 states. The Pratham team is dedicated, selfless and untiring.
This work, this effective implementation of the true meaning of Diwali, was recognized this week with the WISE Prize, often described as the Nobel Prize for Education.
(2012 WISE Prize award from the Emir of Qatar to Dr. Madhav Chavan)
The work we describe is of Pratham, the most successful education NGO in the world, and the largest non-governmental provider of basic literacy and numeracy for underprivileged children in India. The man we speak of is Dr. Madhav Chavan., the CEO and co-founder of Pratham.
The World Innovation Summit for Education (WISE) was established by Qatar Foundation in 2009. Today, the WISE community has more than 9,000 active members in 152 countries who are together seeking novel solutions to the challenges facing education.
Pratham is not just noted for its success and size. It remains a young organization at heart, always trying new approaches, nurturing and and building on the ones that work. An expert from one of America’s greatest universities said a few years ago that he has been studying NGOs for the past 15 years and that he had never seen a more successful or more creative NGO than Pratham. In his view, the vast majority of NGOs end up bounded by their own models. He said that the success of Pratham comes from the creativity of its founder and the open framework to constantly try different ideas.
The recognition from WISE and the amount of the WISE Prize (donated to Pratham) is a another step in Pratham’s drive to bring the Light of Education to India’s underprivileged children, the Pratham step towards removing the darkness in their minds and lives.
Can there be a more meaningful gift in this Diwali season?
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