Education is Opportunity

Posted on February 26, 2008  Comments (0)

Google, Gates, Indian Diaspora Bet on Children by Andy Mukherjee

Yogi Patel, a retired chemical engineer and motel owner from Dallas, was nearing the end of his presentation about the need to tackle illiteracy in India when he put up a slide showing a thumb impression: his dad’s. “I’ve never needed anyone to tell me just how important education is,” Patel said last weekend to a gathering of the Indian diaspora in Singapore. “I’ve seen it in my own life.”

Born into a poor, illiterate family in the western Indian state of Gujarat, Patel was lucky to break free of the poverty trap. Several people from his community had prospered in East Africa. They supported his studies.

at 30 U.S. cents per child per year, the basic math, reading and writing skills required to help young learners retain their interest in education and keep them from dropping out of school are ridiculously cheap. It’s also critical enough to have caught the attention not just of wealthy Indian communities overseas but also of the Menlo Park, California-based William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Together, the two charities offered to help 10 million students for three years by pledging $9 million last year to Read India, an initiative of Pratham, a Mumbai-based not-for- profit organization for which Patel is a fund-raiser., the philanthropic arm of Google Inc., chipped in last month with a $2 million grant to help fund Pratham’s annual survey of the qualitative aspects of primary education in India.

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