Looking at her educational gifts, the Shiv Nadar’s Vidya Gyan in rural UP admitted her for completely paid studies, and she did not waste her chance when she was sent to the US on a students’ exchange programme
Wellesley College in Massachusetts, USA has offered Indian farm family girl Manvi a full scholarship to pursue her undergraduate degree. The daughter of a farmer and his homemaker wife from western Uttar Pradesh is 18 years old and the eldest of four children. She is now the first person from her village of over 2,000 to pursue education abroad.
“I am excited about everything,” Manvi said when asked what she thinks of her future. She lives with her parents in Dhanauri Mafi village. she has three siblings. There’s electricity in the air as she relaxes in the courtyard surrounded by her extended family with two buffalos that live in a nearby shed. Constantly breaking into a wide grin as she speaks, she says “Everything is exciting.”
The annual income of Manvi’s family is less than Rs 100,000 ($1,800) whereas a single year’s tuition and boarding at Wellesley College, which was tgill recently Number 1 in Liberal Arts in the USA - is $88,884 for international students. Wellesley College is currently ranked number three among the top liberal arts colleges in the country.
Manvi’s family definitely acknowledges and praises her achievement wholeheartedly. “She is making our name shine,” her father Brijpal says. “Everyone knows me now as Manvi’s father.” With a constant stream of well-wishers and visitors at Manvi’s house excited to see her off before she starts college. Manvi has almost become a legend in her village.
This is justified, since the female literacy rate in UP is 59.26%, 19.98% lower than male literacy according to a 2011 Census. Moreover, less than four in every ten girls are enrolled in schools in the state’s villages and more than half drop out of school after class 10. Most of them get married before they are 18.
“Everyone knows me now as Manvi’s father.”
Most of Manvi’s friends in her village are already married or will get married soon. Even though these girls completed their primary education, they left schooling to tend to domestic chores and support the household income. Only a few get to finish schooling and maybe attend the nearby college. Manvi’s path changed from theirs and it all began in primary school.
Manvi had a habit to practice whatever she was taught in school after coming back home. She would use a wooden slate and practice with her mother, Sunita Devi. “I didn’t study much when I was her age but I wanted my daughter to get the best education,” Sunita says.
“There are more opportunities for girls now,” she adds.
While Manvi’s mother wanted to send her to a good school, it was out of their financial reach. Manvi attended the local government school that was walking distance from her residence. Classes weren’t always regular but when they did have classes, the quality of teaching was poor, Manvi explains.
Despite these conditions, she persevered and became a topper in all her classes. Her father filled out an application for admission to a newly opened private school that was accepting admissions from low-income families. This was when she was in Class 5. The school was Vidya Gyan, a residential school run by the Shiv Nadar Foundation, and opened its first facility in 2009 to assist intellectually gifted students from rural areas of Uttar Pradesh in achieving their potential. Manvi was one of the ten students chosen from Amroha district.
Manvi’s schooling was entirely free of charge since Vidya Gyan admits its students for free whilst providing them food, lodging, healthcare, uniforms, and school supplies. The one notable clause is that the parents have cannot disrupt their children’s education and have to leave their children completely under the care and supervision of the school authorities. “I was so scared they would kidnap my daughter,” Sunita recalls. “It happens, you know.”
Six months later, when Manvi came home during winter break, her mother remembers noticing a sea of change in her daughter. “She was so confident,” Sunita says. “After that, I didn’t worry.”
Manvi made very rapid progress in her studies and was getting recognised by school authorities for her talents. She went from barely speaking English to fully conversing in the language confidently. She also excelled in basketball and played it at the state-level. In 2014, she was sent to be an exchange student at a public high school in Minneapolis, USA.
This was through the Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study programme which funded her studies.
This was a tremendous break for Manvi. Travelling to the United States completely changed her worldview “Everyone was really nice,” she says. She even picked up an American accent while being there for a year. After visiting several college campuses, she decided she wanted to study there.And as they say, God helps them who help themselves.
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