न हि ज्ञानेन सदृशं पवित्रमिह विद्यते।
ज्ञान के समान पवित्र इस संसार में कुछ नहीं है।।
There is nothing more pure in this world than knowledge(Jyana)
Earn and Learn Scheme for students from underprivileged/economically backward homes.
The goal of this scheme is to enable students who would have been otherwise left out of the advantages of higher education to acquire it with dignity. During admission time, it had to come to the Principal’s notice that several parents of aspirants for college education did not have the requisite funds to enable their girl child to enroll in the college. The scheme, therefore, began with giving ready financial help to such students so that they could take admission. Soon, the numbers seeking such help became too large to continue giving financial help in an ad-hoc fashion. Therefore, the practice was first formalized and regularized by delving deep into the background of the students seeking financial help, interviening them and their parents. However, this method did not prove to be effective. We realised that we needed to change the orientation of the scheme.
The scheme of giving fee waivers/concessions to students so that they could get full-time education in a vibrant college teaching/learning atmosphere was welcomed by all. Staff members (both teaching and non-teaching), well-wishers of the college and those associated with it voluntarily contributed towards this fund. So far, about 2000 students have benefitted from it since its inception.
After a few years we realised that many students claimed the fee waiver as an entitlement, or because their friends were getting it. We did not want to discontinue the scheme for genuine candidates as well as add value to what we were doing. A brain storming session with the Fee Waiver Committee threw up many possibilities. We settled on the Self Help Cell and the Learn and Earn Scheme.
The Self Help Learn and Earn practice was introduced to give financial aid to needy students in exchange for work. The cell has identified a number of areas where the college and its staff needed some extra help. For example, the principal’s office, the accounts and admin departments, the differently abled cell etc., all require volunteers. Working with the Fee Waiver Committee of the college, this cell places the students in different departments according to requirement. So students now earn as they learn and they get training not only in formal education, which is part of their curriculum but also real world experience in book-keeping, file management, dealing with medical emergencies etc. Most of the students so placed feel empowered because they do not have to beg for help; they gain a sense of independence and worth and they also get some very useful training which stands them in very good stead when they are ready for the job market.
To ensure that the scheme runs smoothly and efficiently, the teachers of this committee closely monitor and keep an account of the number of hours each student has put in as well as the changing requirements of different sections/ departments and other such logistic and humane issues.
The Self Help Cell and Earn and Learn scheme is not the only option to help those in financial need. The other option is to pay the fee in two installments or in three installments. However, the College reserves the right to cancel the fee waiver benefit if any student is found to be misusing it.
The biggest evidence of the success of this practice is the fact that we have been running it from the year 2000 and the number of applicants who seek aid is on the rise. Bharati College has gained the reputation of being an accessible and pro-poor friendly institution in West Delhi. The college is the one stop shop for students who are poor and whose parents are daily- wage earners; masons, vegetable vendors, rickshawwallas, maids, security staff, maalis etc. Parents and wards intuitively appreciate the humility, sophistication and dignity with which this scheme is run. It may be pertinent to add that a parent who claimed fee waiver on the ground that his daughter was a reserved category candidate even though he had a regular income backed out of his request when he realized that the fund for the scheme was being put together with considerable difficulty and meant first and foremost for those who had no assured source of income.
In the academic year 2014-15, about 30 students have benefitted from paying fee in installments and 35 have gained from the earn and learn scheme.
The problem encountered in running the scheme is to find meaningful and sustainable work for the students. Since students have to attend classes, work has to be found within the college and in the slots when they are free. This proves to be a problem.
Though staff and well-wishers have been very generous, it is difficult to find the financial resources to continue the scheme. Often we are forced to turn back students for want of funds. So this continues to be a serious problem.
This best practice can be adopted or implemented by any institution if they have a committed group. The practice is not without its rewards. However, to implement and sustain it, it needs sustained work on several fronts: raising money; motivating donors; interviewing students; collecting fool-proof documents to substantiate their claims; attending to logistic difficulties etc. Bharati College has been able to do this because it does have a committed group under a principal who is strongly committed to the cause of giving education to the financially weaker sections of the society.