Scholarship support drives learning efforts
Education in India has taken a severe hit with the onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic and the lockdowns thereafter, which resulted in loss of livelihood for many and the longest closure of schools and colleges. This especially impacted people from underserved communities, such as informal and daily-wage worker households whose loss of income pushed them further into poverty.
During this time, many students moved from private to government colleges or dropped out of college completely because of their financial constraints. The Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2021 also notes the rise in enrollment in government schools for the first time in recent years. With many affordable private schools and colleges shutting down or unable to revise their fees, students from vulnerable communities were left with very limited options. This further restricted their possibilities, of pursuing careers of their choice and securing their source of livelihood.
Our partnership with Dasra on the ‘Back the Frontline’ initiative has helped offer some support in this regard through scholarships to young adults. This article is based on conversations with some of these young adults who shared how the scholarship support has helped them continue education despite the challenges brought on by COVID-19.
I.Shilpa, 23 years
Shilpa is a 3rd year undergraduate student at Nirmala Niketan College, where she is pursuing her bachelors in social work. She lives with her parents in a densely populated urban informal settlement in Dahisar East. At the young age of 6, Shilpa lost her eyesight and the challenges she faced thereafter made her resolve even stronger to help those with any kind of disability, particularly children who suffer from visual impairment. Her decision to pursue a career in social work was also inspired from watching her mother work for the vulnerable in the community, as an NGO worker.
For Shilpa, her mother has been an ardent supporter of her education, and this has helped Shilpa to become a first generation college student, even among her extended family. She is the first girl in her family to have even graduated from high school, Shilpa says that most girls in her family are married off at the young age of 15–16. However, Shilpa’s father, an auto rickshaw driver in the city has not been supportive, as he believes a girl her age is supposed to be married and not be out to pursue an education. Both Shilpa and her mother, however, have stood their ground for education.
Every year, it’s a struggle for Shilpa and her mother to figure out her college fees and the extra fees for scribes and any special resources or materials that Shilpa requires, which has led them to seek loans from informal sources. This year the scholarship Shilpa received has enabled her and her family to focus on other important needs and expenses.
Apart from studies, Shilpa has several interests in sports and games. She is part of the cricket team that recently won at the state level. Shilpa has also worked as a volunteer with YUVA in the past and helped form support groups for youth in her community. She wishes to pursue her masters in Social Work after her final year.
‘It is usually just the lack of finances and resources that stops students like me from pursuing education even if we wish to study more. That’s why this scholarship is so important for securing the lives of students like me. Even if one person is able to educate herself through this scholarship, that one can reach out to more people in need’, she says.
Dipali, 20 years
Dipali, a third year B.Com student at St. Rocks College, Borivali lives in an urban informal settlement at Ganpat Patil Nagar with her parents and two siblings. Dipali’s parents, who have been extremely supportive of her educational pursuits, suffered a setback after the first lockdown. Her father works in the construction industry and is the only earning member in the family. He lost his livelihood due to the pandemic and the subsequent lockdowns. This pushed the family into a debilitating state, where they struggled to make ends meet.
Dipali’s father, till then had done everything in his power to ensure an education for his daughter in a reputable college of her choice. Despite high college fees, Dipali’s family was ensuring that she would not have to drop out of college, till the pandemic hit.
The scholarship fund reached her at this crucial time and helped her in paying her second year fees. After her bachelors, Dipali wishes to pursue a career in Law. And when you ask her why law? Dipali says, ‘I have seen injustice all around me and people wronging others and walking scot free. I want to stand up for the vulnerable, especially girls and women, who have historically been subjugated. I don’t let anybody take or interfere with my rights and if I can stand up so strongly for my rights, I can definitely fight for others. With so many cases of domestic violence that I have seen around me, I want to be the voice against injustice’. Apart from studies, Dipali excels in wall painting, sketching and drawing. A self taught artist she has won many accolades in college competitions.
‘Lockdown had affected everyone in our community, and I saw struggles everywhere, including in my family. At this time, the support I received in the form of the scholarship, may not have been enough to cover the full fees, but because I received it at the right hour it helped my family in a big way’.
Beer Bahadur Gupta, 24 years
Beer, a 24-year-old from Nalasopara, completed his bachelors in Physical Education from BPCA’s (Bombay Physical Culture Association) College of Physical Education last year. From a young age, an athlete at heart, Beer could not be kept from sports. This led to his father suggesting to Beer to pursue his career in physical education. His father, a now retired security guard, has been a true supporter of both his sons’ education and careers. His tireless efforts ensured that Beer’s brother could do his engineering and secure a stable job at a well established company. Beer’s family of 5 now relies on his brother’s income for all their needs, so sometimes in crisis they are led to borrow from friends or relatives. However, the scholarship Beer received helped him to complete his last semester of Bachelors without taking any loan. After completing his bachelors, his family felt proud of him when he also received job offers from companies like BYJU’S.
Beer now works for a sports company called Hudl as a data analyst. Even though he is in his field of interest, what Beer now wishes is to be training children in sports as a PT teacher. Right after his bachelors he wanted to join a school as a Physical Training Teacher, but due to the lockdown and the subsequent closing of schools he could not. Beer also has plans to apply for a Masters in Physical Education in the coming year, and is in the process of preparing for the entrance exam. He says a masters degree will allow him to apply for the National Eligibility Test for Physical Education and make him eligible to also apply for government jobs. Among all sports, Beer is most interested and skilled at football, and wishes to join a football club to train the children in his locality. His brother who has been his pillar of strength throughout also assures his support to him in all his future endeavors.
‘Everyone who has supported me to come to where I am today, has only inspired me to work harder for my goals. The scholarship meant I could finish my undergraduate education without any impediments and without the pressure of returning any informal loans’.
Compiled by Sunanya Deka, as narrated to her by Shilpa, Dipali and Beer Bahadur