Launched in 1999, Gurukul is the scholarship project of Literacy India, aimed at sponsoring students who otherwise do not have access to formal education and career opportunities. The project was designed to provide a support system to the underprivileged sections of society. Lack of access to basic education, social evils such as child marriages, parents’ inability to aid their children in learning, transportation challenges, and non-acceptance of the significance of education were the major driving issues that led to the birth of Gurukul. Meritorious and motivated students are handpicked and provided with full-fledged financial support for higher secondary education at English medium private and government schools such as the Rotary Public School, St Soldier Schools and Mount School. Additionally, support has been extended to students who wish to pursue job-oriented professional courses in areas such as fashion designing, interior decoration, and a master’s in business administration. The selection parameters include student’s performance in final examinations, an independent test, and teacher’s recommendation. As of now, 239 students including 128 tribal children across 7 centers in Delhi NCR, Rajasthan, West Bengal & IIT Campus of Delhi, Roorkee, Bombay & Madras have been benefitted so far.
The project primarily focusses on the tribal communities of India, as they fail to receive most of the benefits of overall development. For instance, the Purulia center works closely with scheduled tribal communities such as Singh Mura, Mundari, Birhor, Santhal, Khariya, and Lohora tribal community. Literacy India is endeavoring to upgrade the literacy levels, boost self-confidence and aid in the empowerment of such communities.
Constant engagement with the relatives of beneficiaries and collaboration with 14 schools and colleges in the Purulia region are some of the many stepping-stones to accomplish the mission. A dedicated lab for the Gurukul beneficiaries has made a huge difference to their performances. Regular language coaching has assisted students in the transition to private and government schools. Collaboration with the online Khan Academy and Duolingo has resulted in drastic improvements in subjects like Mathematics and Science. Literacy India has associated with the WIT (Women in Technology) movement that encourages young girls to take up engineering and counsels them to continue education despite resistance from society. In 2019, 12 young girls from humble backgrounds got admission in IIT-Delhi, IIT-Roorkee, IIT-Mumbai and IIT Chennai. The centre has also partnered with KIKI Technology Institute, Manesar, Pavitra Institute of Technology and Vivo Healthcare for various technical courses and job placements. Five students cracked the Institute’s entrance examination ensuring a secure future for themselves.
Niharika: LI sponsorship gave wings to her dreams
Niharika is pursuing an Aerospace Engineering (dual degree) programme at IIT Madras. She joined the course in 2016. Being from a lower-middle-class family from Bihar, it was difficult for her to make friends. Her grades were also not good enough for any scholarship. However, in 2019 she secured a summer internship in Walmart Labs India as well as a summer research opportunity at Purdue University, which unfortunately got cancelled due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2020, she won the Pratibha award for excellence by Eaton, when she secured a bronze medal under the women’s powerlifting competition at IIT Madras. She has now learned new skills and has improved considerably in her academics.
Says Niharika, who lost her father in 2010: “I am thankful to Literacy India and RBS for sponsoring my college education and hostel fees. I can now focus on my career. I have even got the freedom to try different things, experiment with my life and grow.” She plans to sponsor the education of and guide needy children when she becomes financially independent
The project is supported by individual donors and corporate sponsors such as RBS, Ehsas 81 Foundation, United Way Delhi, Dell Volunteers, Honda Motorcycle and Scooter India, Oxford University Press, Rajratan Global Wires and Clifford Chance Business Services.
Biswanath Sen: An architect of his own future
Twenty-one-year-old Biswanath Sen has been associated with Literacy India since he was in class V. The organization had taken the responsibility for his education and provided him all the material required to be enrolled under the Gurukul programme. Assistance in education worked wonders and boosted his performance. In Class 10 he secured first position. Born into a family of extreme poverty and illiteracy, his parents’ dream of educating their son and making him self-sufficient is on the verge of coming true. Today, he is working under NREGA and is pursuing Bachelor’s in Arts from IGNOU. Alongside, he has decided to learn how to operate the computer and has enrolled himself in Literacy India’s center.
Ranjana: Believes in never giving up
Ranjana has been associated with Literacy India for more than seven years. Her journey with the Vidyapeeth programme started since she was in Class 6. Being a high-achiever and someone who always looks for opportunities to grow, after she completed her high school, she enrolled herself under the Gurukul programme to pursue further studies. After demonstrating outstanding performance, she got into the Institute of Paramedical Science, where she enrolled in the X-ray technician course and successfully completed it from VIVO Health Care Skill Centre. Ranjana’s father worked as a security guard and supported a family of six on an income of Rs.10,000/- per month. Ranjana is a state-level judo player and has achieved several medals for the same. In future, she wishes to take up a private job to support her family.