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Wednesday, January 25, 2023
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This NRI couple’s foundation helps poor kids get decent education, study abroad

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Sitare Foundation was started by Shilpa and Amit Singhal after they left their US jobs. The organisation assists children from low-income families in obtaining a decent education in private institutions as well as opportunities to study abroad.

Kusum Chaudhary, 17, is ready to go to Maryland University in the United States to take a four-year undergraduate degree in computer science. She is staying in a modest, unassuming bungalow in B J S Colony in Rajasthan’s Jodhpur. Her education’s future remained unknown until a few years ago.

She came from a farming family that does not own the land they labour on, therefore money was always an issue.

Kusum feared that due to financial difficulties, she would not have been able to continue her education through Class 12.  She attended the local public school till sixth grade. However, from Class 7 onwards, she was enrolled to the Sitare Foundation.

Shilpa and Dr. Amit Singhal, a US-based couple, founded the pan-India NGO to provide quality education to children from low-income families.

They cover all costs of a child’s education, from grades 6 to 12, including school fees, transportation, lodging, and meals.

The charity collaborates with prestigious private schools in the city. Kusum was quickly accepted at the Euro International School in Jodhpur.

She adds, “I studied English and learned to read, write, and speak it.” Kusum’s world began to open up with the help of her instructors and the foundation.

The Singhals recollect seeing directly how education can change family generations.

“I am only where I am now due of education,” Amit explains.

Shilpa has a master’s degree in Physics from Binghamton University and a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science and Engineering from Cornell University, and he worked as a software developer at Google for 15 years. He could only grant his son, Amit’s grandpa, permission to study. He went on to acquire a BA in English and work as a teacher.

Education, not money, was the only thing one generation gave to the next. Today, the couple is on a mission to contribute whatever they have earned to the cause of education in India. They quit their jobs and launched Sitare in 2016.

Each student’s education costs $2,000 each year, which the couple pays for out of their own pockets.

Amit adds, “Education is fundamentally the only long-term path out of poverty. And education is really important to us.”

Money has very little value beyond a certain point, the couple realised.

Amit observes. ” The only constructive thing one could accomplish with their money is to enhance the lives of others. The couple’s main issue after establishing the foundation was recruiting the smartest students to assist them. Low-income families live in an information-poor world, not simply a money-poor environment.”

In the first year, they received roughly 240 applications and chose 50 to join Sitare. As their work progressed, news spread, and this year, they got 73,000 applications from admission tests held in Jaipur, Jodhpur, Bhopal, and Indore, of which 100 were chosen for the programme.

The aptitude exam was created by testing professionals at the edtech business Educational Initiatives.

They have so far worked with almost 400 youngsters. However, considering the pupils’ backgrounds, additional obstacles have developed.

Because of domestic duties, girls in particular are frequently denied a supportive atmosphere in which to focus on education. “They are battling on a daily basis in that atmosphere.

We are providing them with an education that will enable them to compete with youngsters who live in luxury and whose sole task is to study “He continues.

Even for girls who are talented enough to be accepted into Sitare’s programme, their parents may marry them off, forcing them to quit school.

“All of the societal anguish shows up in our programme in several ways,” Amit explains.

Sitare has also collaborated with Sanskriti, The School, in Ajmer, Kids Club School in Jaipur, IES Public School in Bhopal, and The Millennium School in Madhya Pradesh for pupils that persist with the programme. Their first group of graduates this year, after seven years of hard effort.

In addition to Kusum, four other students are preparing to study in the United States, all of whom are interested in STEM-related degrees, which the foundation supports.

According to Amit, when the youngsters first attend the programme, they do not even dream large. The most ambitious aspire to be the instructors they’ve seen in public schools. Sitare, on the other hand, encourages them to come out of their shells and experience the outside environment.

Amit and Shilpa are also in the process of establishing Sitare University in Madhya Pradesh, where students will receive free undergraduate computer science education.

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