Published: 16th July 2021
Here's how two school friends from Bihar landed full scholarships worth ₹42 lakh each at Ashoka University
Two young boys from Bihar’s Mahadalit community have managed to rise out of ignorance and poverty, and create a shot at an influential future with the help of Dexterity Global’s college initiative
Gautam Kumar met Anoj Kumar when he was in Class I, at the Shoshit Samadhan Kendra(SSK), a not-for-profit residential school run by JK Sinha for underprivileged communities in Bihar. “I was weak at academics, and Anoj was brilliant, so I started hanging out with him, and he would help me with studies,” says Gautam. Today, the two are 18 years old and are set to join the bachelor's programme at Ashoka University, in Haryana, in the coming academic year on a full scholarship of ₹42 lakhs each.
Anoj Kumar with his family in Jamsaut | (Pic: Anoj Kumar)
Gautam and Anoj belong to the Mahadalit, Musahar community and hail from small villages in Bihar. “My mother is a cook at the local anganwadi in Jamsaut, and my father is a daily wage labourer. Neither of them are educated, and have never even heard of the university. When I told them I had won the scholarship, they were confused and I had to explain that the money, which comes at ₹9 lakh per semester, would cover my entire cost of education, right from tuition fee to living and daily expenses. They were happy about the fact that I wouldn’t have to ask for money from them for my education,” says Anoj. Gautam’s father works as a Tola Sevak, a government appointed education servant, striving to raise awareness on education in his village, Masaurhi. His mom is a homemaker.
Gautam Kumar with his family at their home in Masaurhi | (Pic: Gautam Kumar)
This 'life-changing' turnaround came for the two friends, when they were in class XI two years ago. Dexterity Global, an organisation headquartered in Patna signed these two lads up for their 'Dexterity to College' campaign. It is a mentorship programme that provides training, resources and guidance for students to avail scholarships at reputed institutions of higher education. Gautam and Anoj were signed up for the programme at a nominal fee of ₹10, which was also paid up by the alumni of the programme. Anoj says that the programme also helped when they didn’t have the means to pay the application fee.
Sharad Sagar, founder and CEO of Dexterity says that the programme has been grooming children from the SSK since 2013 and that Gautam and Anoj had also followed in their seniors’ footsteps to the organisation. Gautam says that once at Dexterity, they have been given channelised training for the application to specific universities, so that they had a better chance to get in with a full scholarship. “We were taught about leadership, thinking broadly, grasping different concepts and writing perfect essays,” says Anoj. Gautam will be studying Computer Science at the Ashoka University and he aims to create a website that can act as a resource and reach out platform for other young students. Anoj will be studying Mathematics, but he says he is also interested in International Relations and would like to complete his master's at a good university abroad. Both aim to come back to India, and serve communities like theirs, which are in dire need of resources and direction. After all, it isn’t just about providing young students with classrooms and good marks. What they are able to give back to society, probably defines what they make of that education.
Dexterity Global’s D2C programme has managed to provide scholarships worth more than 21.9 crore to students all across India this year
For the two friends though, what is imminent is joining the university in August, and Gautam says that he is relieved he will have Anoj by his side. “He was my first teacher. I was nervous about the challenge of studying in a different city all alone, but when I heard that he would be joining me too, my confidence came flying back and I am really excited for this new ride,” says Gautam. Anoj maintains that there is healthy competition between the two, and Gautam has imbibed what he taught him, and has pulled further ahead. Ask Gautam about sharing a piece of advice with his juniors, and he sings of, “Courage, curiosity and concern,” values that he says were taught to him at Dexterity’s leadership programme. Anoj too, believes along the same lines, and has picked up on Swami Vivekananda’s motto of “service to mankind.”