My brother used to cycle 10-12 km daily to his college. That’s how he completed his graduation. The journey in education that we had talked about earlier is not mine alone or my brother’s. This is a journey of thousands and lakhs of students from marginalized communities, tribal areas and rural areas across India. I didn’t want future generations of students from marginalised communities to continue to struggle on this journey. So we wanted to create a platform where marginalised students could receive better mentorship and socioeconomic support. Based on this idea, we started Eklavya, around four years ago.
Our core team comprises people who have had the practical experience of applying and succeeding at various prestigious opportunities. We have over 100 mentors who have graduated from TISS, APU, IITs, IIMs or other such reputed universities. More than 125 students from our first three batches, who were first-generation learners, are now studying in these nationally reputed universities. We have graduates working in the agriculture sector, the legal sector, the policy sector - they are all working to give back to society. We need such leadership on a bigger level. We need a structural, decentralised program in various areas.
When I went to TISS in 2014, we started a program in my village. It was a mentorship program for 10th and 12th standard students. We did not declare results of tests here. We instead encouraged them to learn and follow a direction of knowledge in specific sectors. We invited entrepreneurs, social workers, doctors, civil servants etc., to host these programs. We expanded that program to neighboring villages, provided books and guided thousands of students. We conducted various book collection drives in Pune, Mumbai and other such metropolitan cities.
In 2017 we started the first batch of the academy. Then, I was working for the Chief Minister Fellowship with the Government of Maharashtra. During this time, I was a Visiting Faculty at Savitri Jotirao College of Social Work at Yavatmal. In this college, 90% of the students were first-generation learners. The number of students that was selected there through Eklavya was more than the students from TISS, APU and other such institutions in the last 25 years. Our students always used to go to Nagpur and Wardha for their further education. We encouraged them to go to TISS, APU, GRF and other such institutions. We taught them not to fear English, to frame answers with a critical approach, among other practical skills such as acing group discussions. This really helped their confidence.
In the last year we have started an online mentorship system, through which we guide students from marginalized communities, tribal areas, and rural areas across India. We conducted a rigorous program for 200 students to aid their master’s studies, and I am very confident that more than 100 students are going to enter nationally reputed institutions. Additionally, we mentored 100 students who were preparing for their undergraduate studies. We are working for their admission process, mentorship, accommodation, and scholarships.