The Scholarship Programme

In rural southern Rajasthan, many children are forced to abandon their studies to help support their families because of poverty. They become agricultural workers or construction labourers, working long hours, often in dangerous conditions, for low wages. To improve retention rates in government secondary schools, Seva Mandir began offering scholarships to children in 2010. These scholarships were designed to compensate parents for the money a child would otherwise have earned through farming or through daily wage labour. Although the scholarships were successful in preventing children dropping out of government schools, we realised that they were not getting a good education as the quality of these schools is very poor. So the programme came to an end. It was given a new dimension in 2016 when we were able to offer a number of children scholarships to

attend a renowned NGO-run school in Udaipur, Vidya Bhawan Senior Secondary School (VBSSS) with the support of a CSR partner (see Current Projects). The pupils who are selected as scholars face a number of academic challenges, as well as social and cultural challenges, in adapting to life at their new school. Given the generally poor education they have received at government schools before starting at Vidya Bhawan, with a lack of teachers (especially subject-specific teachers), high teacher absenteeism and poor teaching methods, they have much ground to makeup.

To assist them academically, summer and winter camps and remedial classes are conducted to help with writing, reading and speaking in English and Hindi, as well as maths and science. This gives them the confidence and ability to reach their full potential.

In addition to academic studies, VBSSS offers extra-curricular activities such as dance, theatre, film, art, craft and sport, giving pupils a chance to express themselves creatively in a fun and active environment. Students play hockey, football and cricket. Scholarship children are also receiving exposure to and training for future employment opportunities.

Overall, the scholarship children perform fantastically at VBSSS and make the transition from village life to city life smoothly.


Impact

Currently there are 56 scholarship pupils, of whom 36 board in on-campus hostels and 20 are day scholars. Despite coming from often difficult and different backgrounds, the children have settled down well in the hostels and adapted to the classroom regime. With consistent support and hard work, they have progressed and are making up for the poor education they had at local village schools.

Besides these pupils’ academic improvements, many excel at extra-curricular activities such as dance, hockey and football. 15 girls are playing district-level hockey, and four girls are now state-level hockey players. Five boys are receiving professional training in football and three boys in cricket.

The scholarship programme will open up new opportunities for these children and allow them to become role models helping to shape the aspirations of others from similar backgrounds. This experiment could create a blueprint for how to ensure that children from such backgrounds get a good education.

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