LOS ANGELES, CA -Rukmini Banerji took over as CEO of Pratham Education Foundation in July 2015 succeeding Madhav Chavan. She has had a long inning with Pratham, being with the organization since 1996. A member of the leadership team, until recently, she was responsible for Pratham’s programs and activities...
Banerji holds a BA in Economics from St. Stephen’s College, Delhi, a PhD from University of Chicago, and was a Rhodes Scholar. Presently, she serves as a member of India’s Central Advisory Board of Education Committee of the Ministry of Human Resource Development for the Government and previously served as co-chair of the Global Learning Metrics Task Force.
She recently visited Los Angeles, and spoke with India Journal on her appointment and how she wishes to steer Pratham.
Talking on what motivated her to join Pratham almost 20 year ago, Banerji said the most important factor was agreeing with the mission which is “ Every Child in School and Learning Well, Every Youth Working and Earning Well.” Also the emphasis on innovation, education and employment resonated with her. “ There was a matching of interests,” she said which spurred her to join..Banerji agreed that basic necessities like food and shelter were important but without education there could be no real progress in the future of children. To move ahead in life this was essential.
As to her vision for Pratham during her tenure she sees it as a continuation of the work that has already been done but taking this to the next level. The ‘Read India’ campaign which consists of teaching kids to read, write and do basic arithmetic, has been executed in 10,000 villages in the last two years and directly impacted a million children. The vision is to scale this up and reach 100,000 villages and directly impact 5 million kids or more. Her views on philanthropy are pretty straightforward. She says by making a donation to Pratham people should realize they cannot pay back but are paying it forward. A minimum donation of $25 will help to educate a child for a complete year. Banerji feels we owe it to people to plant the next tree. We do this in our families all the time – looking out for each other, what we need is to extent this to society at large. Talking on the keys to her success she nailed it on to a fertile working environment which encouraged new ideas and where the possibility of large scale changed existed. She was also privileged to work with those who brought out the best in her. As to where she sees Pratham five years on, Banerji points out that five years is how long her term will last. Five years is long enough to achieve some solid goals but also short enough not to stagnate. The aim is to go beyond the fundamental building blocks, move on to teaching geometry, algebra and long essay writing. To face a whole set of new challenges which are the off shoot of building on the basics but moving forward.