During a glamorous gala, attended by many of Silicon Valley’s Indian American glitterati, raised $1.2 million, and was reportedly ahead of the event that the chapter was well on its way to meet its $2 million fundraising goal for the year.
Google CEO Sundar Pichai was the chief guest the annual gala held at the Palo Alto Hills Country Club Sept. 29 during Pratham USA’s annual San Francisco Bay Area gala.
In his address at the gala, after receiving Pratham’s Corporate Leadership Award, the Indian American leader said, “While most children in rural India attend schools, they are not proficient in math and reading,” said Pichai. “Access to knowledge is the key to opportunity,” he said, adding: “My parents made sure I had a good education.”
Despite the 2009 Right to Education Act, which guarantees every child in India access to education, more than 100 million are illiterate, noted Pratham’s CEO Rukmini Banerji, a former economist who – with Pratham founder Madhav Chavan – has developed many of the organization’s unique teaching methods. Banerji noted onstage that a decade ago, only 11 million of India’s children had reached 8th grade. Today, 22 million kids reach the 8th grade and the majority continue their studies beyond that level, she said.
The Pratham approach is unique: kids at Pratham’s schools are grouped by proficiency, rather than grade level, which means no child falls behind. Pratham’s reading program teaches most children to read in 30 to 60 days. In an interview with India-West on the sidelines of the gala, Banerji noted with pride that by age 18, 80 percent of Pratham’s alumni are still enrolled in some form of education.
Pratham is India’s largest education-focused NGO; it has impacted more than eight million low-income children through its reading and learning program and vocational training modules. Pratham also runs the annual ASER survey — with funding from Google’s philanthropic arm — a massive undertaking which records reading and math abilities for children in 600,000 Indian villages.
In a live feed from India during the gala, Pratham students displayed projects they had worked on using the Pra-Digi tablets. One boy displayed a solar bicycle he had made using instructions from a Google search, and parts he bought from Amazon. Another showed a money-printing machine he had built to print Rs. 10 notes. A young woman displayed her knowledge of magnets and opposing forces from knowledge she had gained on the internet. Heartwarmingly, the group sang the Woody Guthrie classic: “This Land is Your Land.”