The Structural Environment of Pratichi
The overall structural environment of Pratichi encompasses three broad entities: the Delhi-based parent organisation of Pratichi (India) Trust, the Pratichi Institute in Kolkata – combining within it the two existing sub-divisions of the Santiniketan Unit and the Himachal Unit as well as hopefully the Centre for Marginality Studies and the Centre for Village Studies in the near future – and the Pratichi School in Jagatsinghpur district in Odisha.
Pratichi (India) Trust
Chaired by Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen and established with his Nobel honorarium, the Pratichi (India) Trust was instituted in New Delhi in 1999 to pursue its research and advocacy goals in public education, public health, child development and nutrition, gender equity and people’s democratic rights. Pratichi (India) Trust, has been working since then towards combating illiteracy and lack of schooling in India, the lack of basic health care, and the special disadvantages from which women and young girls suffer. One of the first missions that the Pratichi (India) Trust undertook and was commended for was its focused participation in the public relief efforts during crucial national emergencies such as the devastating Odisha super-cyclone (1999) and the Gujarat earthquake (2001).
In 2001 with the growing scope of both its social interventions and research, the Trust established a core research team. Between 2001 and 2010 this core team undertook several projects and published its findings in a number of notable reports and papers. In 2012 Pratichi (India) Trust initiated an innovative education project involving tribal children in Himachal Pradesh to preserve and promote the local Himachali cultural and linguistic diversities. At present, the Trust’s main emphasis is first on providing internal strategic leadership to the entire organisation with all its components and then, externally, on engaging with existing and prospective donors for tax exempted donations vis-à-vis different social issues.
In 2011, the Pratichi research team expanded into the Pratichi Institute. The Trust set up this institute as primarily a research organisation, to carry forward and further its action-oriented research objectives in cultivating core human capabilities of the people of India. The Trust and the Institute, which began its journey from Santiniketan in West Bengal, continues to undertake several research projects not only in West Bengal but also in neighbouring Bihar and Jharkhand, extending their activities further into Odisha, Assam, Tripura, Mizoram and Himachal Pradesh. Its research areas include various themes related to human development such as basic education, healthcare, child nutrition, and gender equality. Pratichi Institute is committed to take up ‘research for action’ that aims to enhance human capabilities, expand social opportunities, and enliven people’s agency to improve their own well-being as well as to make a difference to other people’s lives. Its mandate is to carry out all the research projects, workshops, public meetings, debates and discussions and other tasks authorized by the Trust.
The Institute holds on to the idea that improvement of the quality of people’s lives requires not only governmental and policy actions, but also, crucially, broader public action by ‘ordinary’ citizens. Hence, debate, discussion, and active collaboration with some key members of the public, namely, schoolteachers, parents, students, health workers, grassroots bureaucracy, midday meal workers, the local youth and so on constitute some of our regular activities. These exercises, in turn, shape our conceptual understanding of the research problems that we explore as well as our methods of enquiry. The Institute strives to draw on the twin force of democracy, namely, its potential to generate public demand for the advancement of human development goals and its constructive role in (re)conceptualizing these goals themselves.
The Pratichi (India) Trust, in addition to its work of research and advocacy in the spheres of public education, healthcare and gender equality, operates a wing for humanitarian and charitable activities. This wing focuses on special projects that are interventions to provide support to communities affected by natural disasters for rebuilding their lives. The Pratichi Odisha Project started with relief work after the devastating Super Cyclone of 1999. Recognizing that the cyclone-affected people would require long term assistance in the areas of education and healthcare, in 2001 the Trust set up an informal school-cum-community centre at Kiada, Ambiki panchayat, Ersama block, Jagatsinghpur district. When the Tata relief wing constructed a cyclone shelter in Nagari village near Kiada, the Pratichi School was formally inaugurated and started functioning in 2003 from there.
The Pratichi School has provided the children of the villages in the area with access to proper schooling. The school imparts quality education to students coming from economically and socially backward families. Teaching and learning at the Pratichi School is activity-oriented. Teachers design a variety of activities to make learning more interesting and easier for every subject. There is a lot of emphasis on hands-on experiential learning. In addition to the teaching and learning of academic subjects, the pursuit of music, arts and crafts, yoga, sports and games and a variety of other co-curricular activities are important in the scheme of things at the school.
The school runs a total of seven classes – Lower Kindergarten (LKG), Upper Kindergarten (UKG), Class I, Class II, Class III, Class IV and Class V – with 112 students across the board. There are 11 teachers and three of them are ladies. All the teachers are graduates and several have teacher training qualifications. All students are expected to gain practical experience in course of their schooling by participating in a variety of projects and club activities (like the Kitchen Garden, Environment Club, Science Club, Math Club, Arts Club, Geography Club, etc.). The integration of studies and work is of essence at Pratichi School. The infrastructure of the school is satisfactory and includes a library and computer facilities among other things.
Members of the local community are actively involved in the management of the school through the Parent Teacher Association (PTA), the Mothers’ Forum, the School Management Committee and the Village Committee. The school provides a well-balanced mid-day meal to all the students that is much richer in terms of nutrition and protein content compared to government schools. Health camps are conducted every month and basic medicines are provided.