Samaanta Foundation is an initiative that aims to promote equality and empowerment by providing quality higher education to students from poor socio-economic backgrounds. The Foundation provides comprehensive fellowships to meritorious needy students to cover their educational and associated costs, and helps create an enabling environment for the fellows and their education.
The education system in Nepal is plagued by various shortcomings that seriously undermine its potential to facilitate positive, transformative outcomes, particularly for the poor. These problems are further compounded in the public school system, where resources are scarce, accountability is minimal, teaching is sporadic and ineffective, and socio-economic conditions are not conducive to facilitate further education. Although recent international initiatives such as Education for All and Millennium Development Goals have emphasized primary education and literacy, education policies remain largely silent on the accessibility and quality of higher education available to students, particularly from rural communities. In today’s ‘education age’, secondary schooling is not enough to be competitive in the job market. Further, scholarships dry up even as higher education costs skyrocket. After all, the cost of sponsoring one fellow in higher education is often the same as sponsoring a hundred primary school students, so I/NGOs and corporations involved in the numbers game are attracted to basic education even as the output might be very low.
Samaanta Foundation addresses some of the problems in higher education by providing comprehensive fellows that made these opportunities both affordable and accessible to deserving students from rural communities. We began the fellowship in 2012 and are slowly expanding to build a national endowment for higher education. We have now recruited our third batch of fellows in 2014, and we are quickly moving towards building a strong, reliable model. We believe that, with the right support and encouragement, our fellows can be the changemakers our communities and our nation needs.
For the pilot program in 2012, we selected six students from a community school, Bishwamitra Ganesh School, in a rural village in Lalitpur. These students had performed outstandingly in SLC (School Leaving Certificate, tenth grade). Samaanta’s fellowship facilitated their academic pursuits to help translate them into meaningful life outcomes. Their performance in 12th grade has been exceptional, and we are in the process of renewing the fellowship for three fellows so that they can progress to tertiary education now. We have learned important lessons through this process, and have now diversified and strengthened our selection mechanism over the last two years. We believe in partnerships, and we rely on rich local knowledge to identify and target potential fellows from public schools. Our new fellows bring diverse talents to strengthen our fellowship each year.
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