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The winner of one of the biggest awards in international education, Madhav Chavan has helped provide lessons for millions of impoverished children in India, through his charity Pratham.
Maha Barada, euronews:
Congratulations for the prize, how do you feel about it?
Madhav Chavan, 2012 Wise Prize winner:
-Feels great whenever somebody gives you a pat on the back it’s great. Some people say even God loves praise, so who doesn’t like praise. It feels very good but when you think about it and it is not a cliché there’s so much that needs to be done. So I say thank you it is a great boost for me, my team and my colleagues.
And why do you think you won the prize?
-I think whatever you’ve done on a large scale, the simplicity of our work which can be replicated by others. I think that is a signal that there is a big problem that needs to be solved and not necessarily to be solved by technology. The work we do using resources that people do not normally think are there. Not fussing about building and structures. So I think ours is a very local indigenous effort and we have created solutions out of our own soil. I am not particularly egoistic about it. But I think that as an effort that came from our own soil and I think there is a message there, that people have to grow things in their own soil. You can get some seeds from outside but you can’t get them to water it.
What kind of impact does such kind of prizes have on education?
-Actually our award helps us to say ok you are doing a good work, other people are appreciating it also. But I think more importantly I see that the whole thing behind the WISE initiative is something that strikes me as very very interesting. Because all these years almost a whole century awards and prizes were awarded in the west. Of course there was an agenda of peace, of transformation, technology and so on. And here there is this country called Qatar and comes up basically moves the center of gravity and recognition and awards towards the east and pins it on education not on technology not on oil and that’s fascinating.
So what did you grow in your own soil? Can you tell us more about your project and its impact in India.
-When we started working in 1994/95 in Mumbai we noticed in the beginning that there was a lack of pre schools. We estimated that around 4 and a half thousand preschools were required so that children went to preschool and then to the formal education in the school in the first grade and so on. And all these requirements was in the slums. So how do you construct the preschools? Where is the space? Where is the money? If we didn’t have the money so if we don’t have space we don’t have the money and the manpower, the problem can’t be solved. And that’s exactly the point where we said that these problems don’t exist. I don’t need a structure, I don’t need to train people and I don’t need the money. And without that is it possible to work? Yes, if people in their own community said I will teach children in my own community you get started. All it needs is about 30 thousand volunteers across the country. So can it be done yes if people to people you talk, and you don’t need twitter and all that. The word spreads quickly. Every year for the last seven years 20 to 30 thousand volunteers are trained they go to about 16 thousand villages visit 330 thousand families and test more than 700 thousand children. That is possible if you do a movement.
What about the read india project, can you give us more details.
-You see education is three things one is knowledge, skills and the third thing which nobody really stresses is wisdom and that’s WISE is a good idea. When we did the annual status education report in India we were shocked that after reaching 5th grade after 4 years of schooling nearly 50% of the children could not either read properly up to grade 2 level or could not solve simple division and sum. If you can’t do that then this 50% of the population is not going to be able to access secondary education at all it is not possible. So you have to correct the situation you have to start from the bottom, all children learn well soon, learning late is not learning. So you start sooner and those who have gone ahead there should be kind of a middle action so that they can learn they can move forward instead of dropping out.
How many children benefit from your NGO? And is it only inside India or does it reach beyond the borders of India?
-We were not keen at this organization which started in Mumbai to have branches. But what happened is that locally people started to take the initiative and the network was formed. Similarly going internationally we are not keen to set up branches of Partham some NGOs do that but we are not in favour of that. We feel that in every country people have to do their own solution finding but we are willing to help we are willing to talk, we are willing to discuss, to show what we do, but ultimately you know your own soil.
Your Ngo is now known to be like a voice for educational reform how?
-We are in a very interesting phase. Earlier only few people used to talk and others used to listen. Now everybody talks and nobody listens. I think there is a lot of consensus coming around to the point where after you had a lot of noise you always see that people cluster together for a solution. I think one major problem if we can recognize that learning is the problem schooling is not now. And if that shift is made then we would have created another WISE.
What are you going to do with the money?
-The money first thing will go to Pratham then we will figure out how to use that money, everybody will have discussions. Half a million dollars is quite a bit of money.
“What do you say to other people who are working in the field of education?
-I think the world has now come to the point where education is a bit business a big point of focus and this building of new generation is extremely important. I think working in education is a great thing to do. On the collaboration side as I said we need many wises we need to bring the wises together and say if there is one wise emerging. A lot of people want to do innovation and sometimes there such a thing that there is too much innovation. There is a time for innovation and there is a time for impacting on scale. I think we need to say while I know it. I should also look for a massive scale impact and how can I do it?