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INDIA: Education for girls focus of laptop initiative

Don Bosco Egmore 1997 graduating class supports education for girls with Digital Wings laptop initiative


(MissionNewswire) Graduates from the 1997 class of Don Bosco Egmore have rallied together to launch the Min Siragugal (Digital Wings) initiative to provide laptops to female students to help ensure that they aren’t forced to drop out of school during the pandemic. The goal is to provide 50 laptops to poor students from two Adi Dravidar Welfare Schools on the outskirts of Chennai, India.

One of the graduates, Deepu Antony, noted that while many are donating to provide support to medical facilities during the second wave of the virus, Antony and his classmates wanted to donate to a cause that many aren’t talking about—ensuring access to education for girls. Antony said, “We thought that we should do something that would benefit more people and support unaddressed needs that could have settled to the bottom unnoticed.”

Antony added, “There are multiple reports from India and beyond, including reports prepared by the United Nations about children dropping out of the school system due to economic pressure brought on by the pandemic. In India, the girl child is at a greater disadvantage in this situation.”

Antony had a recent experience that drove home the need. “An auto driver who is allowed to park his vehicle in our apartment casually mentioned the need for providing children with laptops and tablets. His children are attending online classes using tablets that they received due to somebody’s generosity.”

He mentioned the conversation in a WhatsApp group chat with his classmates while adding the importance on focusing on education for girls. His fellow graduates agreed and so they launched the Digital Wings initiative.

“Initially, we thought we would get laptops for 25 girl students, but in 10 to 12 days, 17.5 lakh came in, with our classmates contributing 99 percent of it. The remaining one percent came from relatives. It surprised us as we had expected that it would take a month to make this collection,” Antony explained.

After discussion with principals of two schools, 50 students from grade 10 were identified. The group wanted to focus on these students because the government is offering laptops to students in grades 11 and 12. The laptops are being given to the school for them to distribute to the beneficiaries.

The initiative was driven by YR Gaitonde Center for AIDS Research and Education which is known for its community outreach program. Its founder is also a fellow 1997 Don Bosco Egmore graduate. Madras Central Round Table 82 & Ladies Circle 73 is the implementation partner. The Digital Wings initiative is only one among many programs that have been supported by the 1997 graduates. Antony noted that they plan to continue the Digital Wings initiative each year and hope to expand the scope to reach out to additional schools and even colleges. They are considering reaching out for corporate support to help the initiative grow.

Access to professional training and workforce development services is highly valued by youth in India. The country, which is home to 1.34 billion people (18 percent of the world’s population), will have overtaken China as the world’s most populous country by 2024, according to the World Economic Forum. While India has the world’s largest youth population, it has yet to capitalize on this, leaving some 30 percent of this population without employment, education or training.



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