When lower-caste, rural poor villagers did educate themselves, they would, at best, aspire to lower-level jobs like drivers and office attendants. Higher-level jobs traditionally went to better-educated, higher caste candidates. As much as systemic changes were required, people also needed to adjust their attitudes.
The Special Education Sponsorship programme was begun with the aim of giving deserving poor students from marginalised communities the chance to compete and enrol in quality institutions of higher learning, then university and so on, thereby enabling them to apply for higher posts and corporate jobs. Started with 130 students in 2004, the scholarship now benefits up to 300 students each year. In the RDT project areas, all children belonging to the SC/ST/BC/OC communities, having a set minimum Grade Point Average (GPA) are eligible to take the RDT-CET (Common Entrance Test). The selection to the scholarship programme was at first based entirely on a student’s performance in his or her secondary school certificate examinations. However, since 2009 RDTinitiatedits own exam, the RDT-CET, as a selection criterion.
Once awarded, the student undergoes a parallel coaching along with their Intermediate Pre-University (P.U.) course which serves as a preparatory course for the entrance examination into the different degree course they’re aiming for.With the backing of the scholarship, most students get into prestigious graduatecourses and go onto successful careers in such fields as software and medicine – fields that were out of bounds to them earlier.
The scholarship programme also supports candidates with one or more of the followingexpenses: tuition/course fees, mess charges, educational materials, travel expenses and pocket money – making it a highly coveted programme to be selected into and hotly competed for.The scholarship programme is highly valued in the eyes of the people. The poorfamilies in the area, have a lot of respect for RDT as it’s working towards creating educational equality and taking initiatives for girl child education.
RDT also monitors the progress of students through visits by teams. This keeps a check on the students’ attendance, involvement in academic and extracurricular pursuits, and utilization of the facilities arranged for them. Additionally, the teams can tackle any issues the students might be facing locally. The management of the various colleges also report to RDT, besides the parents, about the students through sending report cards and score sheets.
The long-term benefits of a solid higher education and good employment are multi-fold. It lifts the candidate’s familyand community with not only tangible improvements in standard of living, but also heightened respectability and social-recognition. Today, early beneficiaries of the programme, who are well-employed and successful, are regular contributors to it for the betterment of other deserving children.
As of September 2015, 2,760 students were benefitting from the programme
In 2016-2017, 308 students freshly enrolled under Special Education Scholarship Programme
979 students from Special Education Scholarship Programme are pursuing technical/professional courses
206 students secured admission into India’s top 100 engineering colleges
329 students eventually went on to work for MNCs, Government agencies, and hospitals.
I feel very happy to be a part of RDT’s educational programmes and contributing my bit towards fulfilling the dreams of our country’s children and helping them become successful citizens of tomorrow.
It gives me immense joy and satisfaction to see children reach great heights irrespective of the caste or economic background they belong to. Even more contending is to see their parents having the sense of pride in their eyes seeing their children perform so well. –Shekanna, Training Team Member (Education), RDT
“I never knew how far I could reach in getting higher education, which was a far cry owing to my rural background and the fact that there is a lot of gender bias in rustic areas which still proves to be a major hindrance for girls. Although my parents were not highly educated, they were ever keen on encouraging us to get exposed to higher standards of education. In this pursuit, I wrote an entrance examination for admission into a residential school in which I stood first and went to A.P. Government Residential School, Gooty, and joined Class VI. Here, for the first time, I heard of RDT from my teachers and seniors.
I took the Class X exam in 2007 and scored 94%, securing the first rank in my batch. I could join Sri ChaithanyaMahilaKalasala, Vijayawada, where RDT not only paid my tuition fees, hostel fees, and cost of books but also provided me with pocket money for other expenses. Coming from a Telugu language background, initially I struggled a lot to cope with the education due to the English teaching medium. But with hard work and consistency, I could overcome all those hurdles and by the second year I was confident enough to appear in all entrance examinations. Ultimately, I got into the Electronics and Communications Engineering programme at Jawaharlal Nehru Technological University, Ananthapuram, where I was awarded the gold medal for being ranked first in my batch.”
B. Venkatalakshmi, Special Education Scholarship Batch, 2012
In all social interactions, people would be concerned about the caste of the person they were speaking/working with, a higher-caste person would especially not allow a lower caste person to speak or interact naturally or freely with them. Today such barriers are almost gone in public life, i.e. education, healthcare, governance etc.