Google fb32x32 twitter linkedin feed-icon-32x32

Pratham UK

Pratham UK

June 30, 2011

Pratham tells us about its history, challenges and goals in the UK.

In a quiet corner of west London, I met up with two women heading up a greater collective to run and promote Pratham UK; an international wing of the Indian charity aiming to get ‘every child in school and learning well’. Vinati Sukhdev (Executive Director) and Sangeeta Chawla Joshi (Founder Trustee) spoke to me about the latest developments with the charity, its current efforts and the journey they’ve come along since the branch first set up in the UK back in 2003. 

Though Pratham is internationally known for having its focus largely in India. The idea has always been to spread its message and un-tap the patronage of donors in NRI hotspots globally. Equally important, the charity’s emphasis has been to realistically portray the challenges that lie in the wake of political and cultural change in India. Evidently there are gaps in the educational system where millions of children slip through the cracks. Though the charity doesn’t attempt to change the governmental infrastructure - it seeks to promote and enhance access to basic education. Through introducing literacy to children who by certain means don’t have access to education, Pratham aims to provide the ‘tools’ to facilitate every child. On this level, we established that every child - who can read and write - can then go on to make their own decisions in later life, they can question their environment and build on their knowledge to move in the direction they choose, rather than succumb to the environment they’re born into.

Consider also, that India’s population is amongst the world’s highest, its poverty too - then the scale of this task becomes immense. It is no wonder that Pratham is reaching out to other corners of the world where Indians are striving. Its challenges are not just confined to getting support from these people, but making them accurately aware of Pratham and its cause.

As Trustee Founder of Pratham UK, Sangeeta mentioned that from their original target of one hundred thousand pounds, their events and functions have now seen them raise figures at the 2.1million mark. They’ve ventured on from an annual charity party - to a full gala with sports and cultural events too. From an operation set up in Sangeeta’s home, Pratham UK now relies on the free time and effort of friends and patrons to run its events across London. It’s come a long way in the last eight years, now with a humble space in the city and plans to start work in other NRI capitals across the world.

Yet despite this impressive growth - there is always a lot to be done. For a charity in this day and age, part of the struggle is to continually keep its cause clear - which in today’s media can become lost. To its advantage, Pratham’s admin cost in the UK is near the 5% mark of its intake. By comparison to other charities, this is very impressive, but means they have to strive harder to achieve goals. On the other hand - it leaves the charity with a respectable repuation. The charity would seek to now have its name clearly lodged in the minds of NRIs wanting to contribute. As Indians who have spare income - we ought to think beyond household charity names and realise that this charity’s work is more closely involved with an experience that may be more relevant to us.

As we continued our conversation, Vinati mentioned that biggest challenge facing Pratham - is making people aware of the relativity of large sums. The current amount of foreign aid that goes out from Britain to India - is a mere percentage of what can be achieved. She continued to mention that people often assert that as growing economy India’s worth is improving and should feed more directly into charities. The truth, however, is that the sum produced by the Indian government never really stretches to the entire populace and is assigned to a range of causes. It can’t always compete with the what’s available in the wider world. More intrinsically the outreach of charity in India is a lot more difficult to measure - simply on the grounds of the amount of children that need to be catered for. However, Pratham always aims to give its patrons an update on its influence. Vinati told me about the ASER project that she’d been involved with. It is, in essence - an Annual Status of Education Report. Informing patrons of the distribution of their contributions (making clever use of the word’s Hindi connotation).

Currently Pratham relies heavily on volunteers from around the globe to help in India. Of course, it’s not about taking every child into university and onto the job of their dreams - but it always seeks to give children the building blocks they need to start shaping their own lives. Its challenges in India will always be about working between the ebb and flow of supply and demand. The technological and cultural change in India - though positive - still leaves behind a lot of work to be done with the poor. While there is still poverty, this will continue to need funding.

Pratham UK is currently holding a charity 10k run on July the 10th as part of its growing portfolio of fundraising events.

Image courtesy of
Pratham Books. 

1 Comment

  • Dr Dinesh Verma
    Dr Dinesh Verma
    16.04.14 07:10 AM
    Keep up the good work & show others how they can make a difference in society

Leave a comment