Women Who are Leading the Way

Education is not a privilege, it is a basic fundamental right. Yet, quality education remains as one of the topmost challenges in our country. Children from poverty-stricken families are severely affected by various economic and social challenges. If education as a right remains elusive, it can surely be an impediment to the growth of these children, thereby impacting the prosperity of the country.

Quality Education for Underprivileged Children: Women Who are Leading the Way. Picture Courtesy: YourStory
Quality Education for Underprivileged Children: Women Who are Leading the Way. Picture Courtesy: YourStory

To overcome this challenge, several women entrepreneurs, educators, and philanthropists are making efforts to provide quality education to children from the underprivileged sections of the society, so they get an opportunity towards equal education.

Kumari Shibulal

The founder and chairperson of the Shibulal Family Philanthropic Initiatives (SFPI), Kumari Shibulal began supporting the education of underprivileged children, way back in 1999. The endeavour began with offering scholarships to two students, and today, it offers assistance to children across different levels of education.

Kumari Shibulal, Founder of Sarojini Damodaran Foundation
Kumari Shibulal, Founder of Sarojini Damodaran Foundation

Their residential scholarship programme, Ankur, aims to break the vicious cycle of poverty breeding ignorance, and vice versa. Another programme titled, Saathiya, provides vocational support to those who want to have a career in hospitality. Saathiya, the Skilling Academy operates in alliance with The Tamara Leisure Experiences.

Another programme, Vidhyadhan, helps students pursue higher education after completing school. The eligibility for the scholarship is 95% in class 10 examinations, and have a family annual income less than Rs 2 lakh. As per SFPI, the scholarship has helped over 17,000 students, out of which there 230 students have become doctors, and 940 are engineers.

Also watch: Teaching Underprivileged Children, Shaheen Mistri’s Inspiring Story of Running One of India’s Biggest Education Movements.

Radha Goenka

An alumnus of the University of Pennsylvania, Radha Goenka started the Pehlay Akshar (meaning the first step) programme, as part of the RPG Foundation, in 2008. She realised that government schools that were the only option available for education to low-income families saw high drop out rates, largely because of the desire to learn in English. Although several private schools cropped up and began offering English medium education to these students, they were hardly effective, and just wanted to make a quick buck.

Radha Goenka
Radha Goenka

To overcome this challenge, the Pehlay Akshar programme launched content with the aim of making learning a language much simpler. Instead of focusing on British English, the programme focuses on functional English that enables children to do well in academics and their careers.

The programme has partnered with more than 2,000 government schools, and has impacted more than two lakh children as of September 2019.

Ashwini Doddalingannavar

A resident of Kuballi, Karnataka, Ashwini Doddalingappanavar, fought all kinds of adversities to be where she is today. Her parents wanted her to get married, but the young girl wanted to pursue her education. That’s when she approached the Deshpande Foundation to learn computer, English, and soft skills. In the past two years, she has several rural girls acquire the skills and education needed to secure meaningful employment.

Currently, she is working as an Implementation Associate with Meghshala Trust in Bengaluru. On average, she visits around 25 government schools every month, and helps to train teachers, especially when it comes to digital skills.

She recently featured in an episode of New Realities VR Series: 10 Young Women 10 Countries. One World – a short film series produced by the American company Lenovo. She is the only Indian woman in the series that also has nine other inspirational women from various countries.

Also watch: The Power of Stories Over Textbooks: Meet Geeta Dharamrajan, India’s Voice of Education Equality.

Uma Pathak

Uma was really inspired by her father, who was a school principal, and decided to dedicate her life to providing education. She started out as a teacher, providing education for free to students in Aligarh, before establishing the SPS Foundation in 2018. Apart from supporting students with free education, she has also made consistent efforts to make them aware about life skills, and other important areas like hygiene, sanitation, and nutrition.

Uma distributing stationeries and masks to children
Uma distributing stationeries and masks to children

When the pandemic broke out, she distributed masks, sanitisers, and gloves to economically challenged communities in Aligarh, Hyderabad, Chennai, and Bengaluru. The initiatives undertaken by the foundation are funded by her brother and Paytm founder Vijay Shekhar Sharma.

Amudhavalli Ranganathan

Daughter of celebrated entrepreneur CK Ranganathan, Amudhavalli Ranganathan, has made sure she utilises her privilege in the best possible manner. She launched Canopo International, a pre-school now renamed as CK Wonder Kidz in 2014, to provide quality education to students. She also works with the CK Group of Educational Institutions.

Amudhavalli Ranganathan
Amudhavalli Ranganathan

During Covid-19, she helped students of government schools in Cuddalore, Tamil Nadu, who had no access to online channels. She aired classroom sessions on local TV channels, so they do not miss out on learning during these times. She also introduced mental health care initiatives, where parents can speak with counsellors over the phone.

(Edited by Varnika)

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