Starting Early: A Focus on Early Childhood Education & Nutrition in India


Education Series 2019: Part 1

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(L-R) Kaosar Afsana, Lina Ashar, Indra Mallo, Mathan Varkey, Vrishali Pispati

Better health leads to good education outcomes and good education outcomes lead to better health. This is especially true for young children as more than 85 per cent of cumulative brain development occurs prior to the age of six. Studies indicate that these rapid and dramatic changes later go on to determine a child’s fundamental skills which form the very foundation for future education and learning. To facilitate this, children must be present in a safe and conducive learning environment with access to nutritious, healthy meals to aid their growth and development.

A child’s first experience with early childcare is usually with its first guardian – a mother. Studies indicate that educating pregnant women and new mothers on nutrition, early childcare and maternal health can have a positive impact on the overall education and health outcomes of young children. The government has undertaken a massive exercise to improve early childhood education by reaching out to 40 million children and their mothers through 1.4 million Anganwadis across the country through the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS). While this has significantly reduced drop-out rates and improved the mental and social development of children, gaps in this unusually ambitious scheme remain. Replicating scalable models adopted by organisations such as the Akshaya Patra Foundation can offer feasible solutions to the nutrition gaps in the country. This programme will also examine the best practices in early childhood education and nutrition from across South Asia with a special focus on Bangladeshi programmes, which will be presented by Dr Kaosar Afsana, former Director of BRAC’s Health, Nutrition and Population programme and current Professor of Public Health at BRAC University, Dhaka.

Join us as we discuss what measures can be undertaken to improve the state of early childhood education and nutrition in India through partnerships between the government, private players, NGOs and community centres. A keynote address will be delivered by Indra Mallo, IAS Officer and Commissioner of ICDS, Maharashtra on the current practices adopted by the government in this sector. The panel will include Mathan Varkey, National Director of Corporate Partnerships at Akshaya Patra Foundation, Kaosar Afsana, Professor of Public Health at BRAC University, Bangladesh, Lina Ashar, Founder of Kangaroo Kids and Vrishali Pispati, Director at Mumbai Mobile Creches as moderator. 

This is the first programme in our annual education series in partnership with the HT Parekh Foundation which explores ways to strengthen the education system in India. 


Indra Mallo, IAS, is the Commissioner of the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS), Maharashtra. She has also served as the Vice-Chairman and Managing Director of MAVIM (Mahila Arthik Vikas Mahamandal) a Government of Maharashtra undertaking. She previously was the Secretary for Sports & Youth Affairs and the Secretary for Health & Family Welfare with the Government of Arunachal Pradesh. 


Mathan Varkey is the National Director of Corporate Partnerships at the Akshaya Patra Foundation. He worked as a Media Planner with various advertising agencies like Clarion, Enterprise and Triton. When he quit advertising, he was Vice President-Media of Triton Communications. He commenced his career with the social sector with GiveIndia, an online giving portal, where he was responsible for building the employee giving programme. When he left GiveIndia, the programme had 40,000 corporate employees contributing nearly 10 crores every year. Mathan has been with Akshaya Patra for over 5 years. Akshaya Patra is the world’s largest NGO in the school meal programme, feeding 1.8 million government school children every day.

Kaosar Afsana

Dr. Kaosar Afsana is a Professor at James P Grant School of Public Health (JPGSPH), BRAC University, Bangladesh. She has served BRAC in Bangladesh for over 26 years and completed her tenure as the Director of BRAC Health, Nutrition and Population Programme. Dr. Afsana worked with BRAC JPGSPH since its inception and became Professor in 2011. She is an MD with MPH from Harvard University, USA and PhD from Edith Cowan University, Australia. She has been honoured with many prestigious awards for her academic achievements and contribution to maternal and child health and women’s empowerment. She represents BRAC JPGSPH and BRAC at national and global levels playing a critical role in policy-making. planning and providing technical guidance, particularly, in sexual, reproductive, maternal, neonatal, child and adolescent health and nutrition, early child development and health system strengthening.  


Founder of Kangaroo Kids & Billabong High, Lina Ashar started her career as a teacher and today is one of the most renowned educators and edupreneur in India. The conviction to offer an education that set the child at the centre, began with a preschool in Bandra (Mumbai) in the year 1993 with 25 students. With a successful formula at hand, she went from one preschool (Kangaroo Kids) to a network of them, whilst branching out to high schools (Billabong High International School) as well. The journey of developing child-centric schools across 44+ different cities in India and across Dubai, Maldives and Qatar has been an outstanding one, supported by parents, education partners and a fierce team of dedicated, passionate and determined individuals at the school and central team level. She is the author of two parenting books and is the recipient of several prestigious awards for her contributions to the education sector.


Vrishali Pispati is a Director at Mumbai Mobile Creches, a non-profit that runs daycare centres for children of migrant workers living on construction sites of Mumbai, Navi Mumbai and Thane. Vrishali holds a Bachelor’s degree in Law, Masters in Economics, and another Masters in Management Studies. She has been associated with Mumbai Mobile Creches for over a decade, including as its Chief Executive for eight years. Vrishali is passionate about ensuring that children are safe, healthy and educated and works towards a future where all children have a happy and nurturing childhood.


In partnership with:

HT Parekh Foundation


Event Details

Wed 21 Aug 2019
6:30 - 8 p.m.

Hall of Harmony,

Nehru Centre,


Mumbai 400018

Add to Calendar 20190821T130000 20190821T143000 UTC Asia Society: Starting Early: A Focus on Early Childhood Education & Nutrition in India Hall of Harmony, Nehru Centre, Worli, Mumbai 400018