WRITTEN BY: PARINITA GUPTA
(June 10, 2023) Dr Madhav Chavan’s initial days were spent around learning, and teaching chemistry in the US. The experience helped him understand the challenging circumstances faced by impoverished children in our country, motivating him to bring about a transformation. Upon returning to India, he co-founded ‘Pratham’, one of India’s largest NGOs, focused on providing high-quality, low-cost learning to underprivileged children.
“With the aim of tackling a significant issue within India’s education system, my focus was on utilizing the available resources such as infrastructure, personnel, and community engagement. By adopting this approach, I managed to keep both the initial and ongoing costs of the project to a minimum, ensuring that even the poorest communities had access to educational opportunities for their children,” said Madhav.
The transition from Chemistry to literacy proved to be highly rewarding, leading ‘Pratham’ to develop a range of impactful programmes, including early education, remedial education for primary and upper primary students, the establishment of libraries, support for children who have discontinued their education or are at risk of doing so, and vocational training opportunities for young individuals.
“We are trying to serve more than 1lakh children in Mumbai and are scaling up in 12 other cities in India. ‘Pratham’ is now leveraging its critical asset, a low-cost distribution channel, to provide a variety of other useful services at little incremental cost,” said Dr. Madhav.
The Global Indian received the 2012 WISE Prize instituted by the Qatar Foundation at the World Innovation Summit for Education, an award which has been equated to a Nobel Prize for work done in education. He was also bestowed with the Skoll Award, the Kravis Prize, the BBVA Frontiers of Knowledge Award, and the LUI Che Woo Prize and was named the 2014 Asia Game Changer by the Asia Society, solidifying his significant impact and influence in the realm of education.
During the course of the past two decades, ‘Pratham’ has expanded its reach by working with primary and upper primary school children, students who have dropped out, and young individuals in need of vocational skills, spanning across rural and urban areas of India. Dr. Chavan effectively combines his scientific background with his creative mindset to consistently explore innovative ways to educate the underprivileged children of India.