Stories

Vatsal's Story: From Readathon to Real Life


Vatsal Parikh, a teenager from Raleigh, North Carolina, supports Pratham through our annual Readathon. In the summer of 2014, he headed to Mumbai with his family after arranging a site visit to the GN Ward in Dharavi, one of the largest slums in the world.

From the slum’s crowded and dirty streets, Vatsal’s family and their guide, Savita Parab, entered the clean, well-lit home of a Balwadi (preschool) teacher. The children were listening, talking and interacting with the teacher—their high level of comfort due in part to Pratham’s model of hiring and training people from within the community.

“It was an engaging learning environment where each child was encouraged to take a turn to speak,” noted Vatsal. “There was also play time, arts and crafts and handmade posters on the walls. I was impressed with the instructor’s level of explanation and patience.”

The enthusiasm of the students continued at the next site, a municipal school where a Pratham instructor works with sixth and seventh graders a few hours each day to improve their fluency in Hindi. Pratham teachers encourage active learning instead of rote memorization. The students were smiling. They were discussing what they want to be when they grow up. Everyone looked happy to be there.

Vatsal asked Savita, “What kind of progress has Pratham made in these neighborhoods?” She explained that some “at-risk” areas have actually been removed from their list because of their success. This is partly because Pratham engages parents, who then become actively involved in their children’s academic progress.

At their final stop, a public space Pratham converted to a library, Vatsal watched the instructor read stories to children, lend books to them to take home, and then go door-to-door to bring more books to families who did not make it to the library that day.

Vatsal summed up his experience: “After seeing how engaged the students are and how passionate the instructors are, I felt great that all the funds I have raised through the Readathon are going to an excellent cause.”

This grassroots level of education is creating a real life for the children of Mumbai…and beyond.

Do you want to see Pratham’s programs in action? Schedule a site visit in India.


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