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Access & Impact
May 9, 2023
By: Jennifer Yates
Like many of the other children born in the Singareni community in India, N. Ramesh grew up in poverty. His father was an auto driver and mother a daily wage laborer, and there was little opportunity for him to envision a future that would be any different.
An estimated 104 million people, or 9% of India’s population, live in densely populated settlements marked by substandard housing, lack of access to clean water and power and severe poverty. Children in these settlements like Ramesh routinely lack support to seek an education and, if they do, often drop out because of lack of access to basic hygiene and toilet facilities.
But Ramesh participated in the Akshaya Vidya supplementary education program for children run by Ekalavya Foundation. The program, which is supported by Viatris, provides education both to students in school and those who have dropped out through special learning centers established in their communities. The centers offer evening classes with trained tutors and provide smartphones for groups of students to facilitate continuous learning and monitoring.
With the help of Akshaya Vidya tutoring and mentoring, Ramesh achieved 100% marks in his 10th grade standard exam and exceptionally in the Joint Entrance Exam, a required exam for admission to engineering colleges, enabling him to pursue his dream of becoming a software engineer.
“The Akshaya Vidya program started with just one tutor and four children. But thanks to timely support from Viatris and other organizations, we now have more than 127 Akshaya Vidya Learning Centers with about 4,000 children in Hyderabad, Ranga Reddy, Medchal and Adilabad districts of Telangana,” said Vivek Anand, Chairman, Akshaya Vidya Foundation.
Viatris initially supported 20 centers covering approximately 600 students. But because of the success of the centers, the program was expanded to 40 centers with approximately 1,200 students. The tutors often hail from the local community to earn trust among the students and showcase local role models. The learning centers also have become safe havens that offer respite to some children and adults.
“As a global healthcare company, Viatris seeks to foster healthy communities around the world. One of the many ways we do this is by supporting education, which is especially important for the disadvantaged children in India,” said Michelle Dominica, Head of Corporate Social Responsibility and Administrative Services for Viatris in India.
Ekalavya Foundation was established in 2006, and its Akshaya Vidya project to promote education for children living in disadvantaged communities was launched in 2011. The program includes academics, extracurricular and co-curricular activities, health, hygiene, culture, nationalism and other topics with the goal of helping children develop and become a part of modern society.
Ramesh’s story was featured on the Akshaya Vidya Facebook page, and the group hopes his experience will inspire others.
Though his economic circumstances were difficult, “Ramesh’s achievement is simply stellar and shows that if human beings can persevere they can achieve any great heights with hard work,” the group wrote. “We salute Ramesh and his never say die spirit and hope many youth will get motivated to follow his example.”