Educating the needy in the time of COVID-19

Humaira Shamim had just started going to the elite Jewish Girls School in the upscale Park Street neighborhood of Kolkata in West Bengal. But her father, who was working as a salesman in Saudi Arabia, lost his job all of a sudden and returned back to India.

The economic crisis due to Covid 19 made the situation even worse. Humaira’s father has not been able to get any proper job. Nor has he enough resources to start his own business. His dream of giving the best of education to his only daughter looked gloomy.

“Her school is one of the best schools around but a bit costly. When we got her admission we never thought of going through any financial crisis as everything was going smooth,” says Humaira’s mother Farha.

“We are thankful to the Aligarh alumni scholarship that we hope to continue her education.”

Humaira’s monthly school fee is Rs.2000. She got Rs.12,000 scholarship from the Aligarh Education Endowment Fund which would take care of her six months school fee. This appears to be little but actually great support and hope for the family currently undergoing a financial crisis. Humaira’s mother says once her husband gets a proper job, the family will be able to manage on their own. But till then they need financial support to sustain. Farha wants her daughter to continue in the same school as she is doing exceptionally well and has good potential.

US-based Aligarh Education Endowment Fund gives scholarships to students identified by volunteers in Bihar, Jharkhand, and West Bengal. The annual scholarship scheme is run by Aligarh Muslim University alumni targetting students where other government and private aid is unable to reach.

Shaheer Khan, an AMU alumnus who is instrumental in the scholarship distribution, says, “We don’t just give scholarships but also mentor students so that they get good guidance and are able to complete basic education.”

Some students have been getting scholarships for quite a few years while some new ones get added every year. A total of 16 students got scholarships in the session 2020-21.

Nahid Perween got the scholarship for the first time this year. She is studying in Class 12 at DAV Public School in Hazaribagh, Jharkhand. Her father works as a mechanic at a  private motor garage. Nahid aims to do civil services and has plans to go to Delhi or Aligarh for higher studies.

Nahid says, “I was not aware of any scholarship. I did not know if anyone could help us. But one of our relatives told me about the Aligarh scholarship and I applied for it.”

“I am happy to get Rs.12,000. This is a big support.”

Nahid’s father, who goes by the name Mister, says his daughter is good in studies since the beginning. She got 92 percent marks in Class 10 board exams without any tuition or outside support. He wants to send her for higher studies if he is able to get some financial support.

Delhi-based journalist Ehtasham Khan, who has been volunteering in this work, says there are some exceptionally talented students looking for guidance and financial support at the grassroots. Most of them are first-generation learners. A little bit of hand-holding can bring a lot of change in society. 

“I think we need to start schemes like a adopt a child in which some people can take responsibility of one under privileged child till he completes his or her studies. This will not only give financial support but guidance and mentoring which actually these students need,” said Ehtasham Khan.

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