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How a little hand-holding helped first-generation learners take a leap

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Bhatt Hembram, Kshirodini Sahoo, Nivedita Panda, Satyajit Sahoo, Subhendu Parida, Parveen, Sahil, Kajal, Vijay Makwana have one thing in common- they all come from deprived backgrounds and have passed NEET and JEE with flying colours. Despite the lack of resource, access to digital education and financial difficulties they were able to crack the most crucial entrance exams.

These students, who are first-generation learners born to parents working as farmers, daily wage labourers, taxi and auto drivers, vegetable and roadside vendors, betel shop owners, among others. Thanks to the initiatives by a few NGOs and government-funded organisations, these meritorious students from economically weaker section (EWS) made it to the top institutions including IITs, NITs and medical colleges.


Confidence building
“Keeping the underprivileged students motivated and confident is the biggest challenge for us. Most of them feel unsure about their abilities. Despite having the subject knowledge, most of them fail to gather the courage to respond confidently,” says Super 30 fame mathematician Anand Kumar, who begins the teaching by giving pep talk and making the students watch motivational videos to help them realise how getting best education has nothing to do with one’s economic status.

Ajay Bahadur Singh, who runs Zindagi Foundation in Bhubaneswar gives more importance to build confidence. “Initially, the challenge is to make them realize that they are at par with their urban counterparts. It takes us a few months to make them confident. The COVID-19 has added an insult to the injuries of these students grappling with limited resources,” says Singh. He adds that arranging fees for higher education is another area where we have to help them.

“The pandemic and ensuing lockdown derailed the teaching-learning for those who cannot digital infrastructure, seamless internet connectivity. During the lockdown some of them lost their hopes and were unsure of clearing the exam,” Singh adds.

“Being the first-generation learners, these students are dependent on us for any kind of support, assistance and doubt clearing,” says Singh. Access to quality education for everyone is the only way to eradicate poverty and calls for similar initiatives everywhere in the country.

Social entrepreneurship
Naveen Mishra, president, Vikalpa Foundation based in Haryana’s Rewari district call these initiative as the need of the hour. “We need more of these social initiatives to help those who cannot afford expensive coaching to prepare for medical and engineering examinations,” says Mishra, who too was supported by his teacher while studying at IIT Delhi, in 2002-2006.

“I secured admission in IIT but meeting the expenses was a difficult for my family. Thanks to my teachers who offered me monetary help while studying at IIT Delhi,” says Mishra, who now helps government school students in Haryana, to prepare them for exam under the Super 100 programme supported by the state government.

Candidates shortlisted under the Super-100 programme, get free lodging and food from the Haryana government and the teaching and training part is offered by Vikalpa Foundation.

As many as 23 out of the 37 students of the ‘Super-100 programme’ have cracked the Joint Entrance Examination (JEE) Advanced, held for admission to engineering colleges across the country.

“Going to a paid preparatory class for the competitive examinations was beyond their imagination. Some EWS students had the potential, all they needed was little exposure and motivation to create history,” adds Mishra, who terms this kind of educational initiative as social entrepreneurship.



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MAH CET Result 2020 likely to be declared today for LLB 3 Year programme

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WFH: Work from home revolution is a surprise boon for India’s women

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The coronavirus pandemic has hit women worldwide with job losses and closures of childcare centers. Yet a surprising bright spot is emerging: India’s $200 billion technology services industry, where new rules are expected to provide female workers with a broad swath of flexible work arrangements and fresh employment opportunities.

On the outskirts of New Delhi, Teena Likhari, 45, quit her job running operations for the Indian back office of a Silicon Valley company in 2018 because of a family medical emergency. Looking to rejoin this year, she expected a market stunted by lockdowns. Instead, the pandemic had made work-from-home mainstream in her industry, which had long shunned the practice.

Not only did the operations manager quickly land a job with Indian outsourcer WNS Global Services, but working from her home in the city of Gurgaon, she began overseeing a 100-member team in the city of Pune about 900 miles away.

Likhari is one of the early beneficiaries of India’s decision to lift decades-old restrictions on remote work in back office firms because of the pandemic. The tech services industry — one of the country’s most important financially — can now allow employees to shift from traditional offices to work-from-anywhere arrangements, permanently if needed. Indian women, who have often had to sacrifice for their husbands’ careers or other commitments at home, have much to gain from the policy change.

“Even a year ago, an operations leader working remotely would’ve been unimaginable,” said Likhari, who has seen scores of women quit work after childbirth, marriage or when a family member fell ill. “The change will allow so many career women like me to do what we do from home, it’s a game changer.”

India’s large numbers of English-speaking graduates and cheaper costs relative to the West have spawned a sprawling industry that’s often called the world’s back office because of its global reach. The broad outsourcing sector, which includes technology services in addition to business processes, employs about 4.5 million people. Foreign banks from Deutsche Bank AG to Barclays Plc run wholly owned centers handling everything from global payrolls to technology infrastructure maintenance for themselves and customers. Local outsourcers Tata Consultancy Services Ltd. and WNS offer everything from data analytics to support on financial and accounting processes to international clients.

The pandemic has changed workplaces globally but the new norms are particularly significant in India. Social conventions that required women to move to their husband’s locations or stay with family in small towns, or simply be available inside the home to care for elders and children have shut out millions of qualified female workers. Greater flexibility and the opportunity to work from anywhere would give them choices they’ve never had before.

Also, India’s old rules – originally designed to prevent misuse of leased telecom lines – had prevented permanent work from home arrangements in back offices. But the pandemic pushed the government to remove decades-old reporting obligations, such as those requiring companies to provide office network diagrams in order to get international communication circuit allocations. The changes opened the door for people to work from home on a long-term basis.

A huge segment of working women in India, particularly the less privileged, have faced many of the same problems that have beset their global counterparts during the pandemic as they’ve had to juggle childcare, online schooling and office work from home, forcing some to drop out. Millions of female rural workers and daily wage earners lost jobs because they can’t work from home. Yet, the changes in the technology services industry show just how deeply the pandemic is forcing Indian companies to reimagine workplaces.

Companies like WNS, which caters to the likes of Virgin Atlantic Airways Ltd., Tesco Plc and Avon Products Inc., are envisaging a hybrid office and home model, satellite offices in small cities and a blend of full-time employees and gig workers. “We’ll see work going to people rather than people going to work,” said Keshav Murugesh, group chief executive officer of WNS which employs 43,000 workers globally, nearly 30,000 of them in India. “With flexible hours or selected work days, over 100 million Indian women with secondary degrees, could potentially find employment,” he said.

Mumbai-headquartered Tata Consultancy, closing in on half a million workers, has already committed to a “25-by-25” strategy — by 2025, only 25% of its workforce will be working inside an office at any one time.

Asia’s largest outsourcer with $22 billion in annual revenue. “More women will stay in the workforce, more will reach senior leadership levels.”

A third of India’s technology services labor force comprises women, already a better gender ratio than most other industries in the country, Nasscom, the industry trade association says. Work from home opportunities in back offices may now offer more opportunities to qualified women in small towns who aren’t allowed to migrate to bigger cities for work.

Most of the back office outsourcing centers are located in sprawling campuses within big cities like Bangalore or New Delhi. Barclays, for instance, has over 20,000 workers providing technology solutions globally and UBS Group AG has 6,000 employees, about a third of them in Mumbai alone. Deutsche Bank employs 11,500, nearly half of whom are in the neighboring city of Pune. Most of these workers have been operating from home during the pandemic.

“There is so much talent in smaller cities that has been untapped so far,” said Madhavi Lall, head of human resources at Deutsche Bank India. “Flexible work arrangements would certainly bring that talent to the fore, especially women who find it difficult to migrate or shift their base.”

The pandemic has pushed discussions on future work models and strategies, especially with regard to arrangements like staggering employee shifts, rotating days or weeks of in-office presence, she said. And that along with the change in India’s government rules will enable more women to join the workforce.

While India is evolving, cultural norms need to progress further, said Debjani Ghosh, president of Nasscom. Added flexibility could certainly improve women’s participation in the workforce. But it could also increase pressure to simultaneously deliver on the home front.

“If work-from-anywhere has to succeed,’ Ghosh said, “the mindset that women have to work as well as single-handedly manage the home has to change.”



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Delhi schools may not reopen till we get vaccine, says Manish Sisodia

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NEW DELHI: The schools in Delhi will continue to remain closed, education minister Manish Sisodia said on Tuesday. “The schools are unlikely to open till we get some vaccine,” Sisodia told TOI.

In the wake of Covid-19, the schools in Delhi have been closed since March. Even after the Centre allowed reopening of schools for classes IX to XII, Delhi government decided against it.

“Here it is both Covid-19 and pollution; so nobody wants to send their children out of home. The state government has taken a good decision,” said Ridhima Jha, a parent whose child studies in Class VI in a private school.

The deputy chief minister had announced on October 30 that schools would remain closed until further orders. “We keep getting feedback from parents that they are really concerned about whether it is safe to reopen schools. It is not. Wherever schools have reopened, Covid-19 cases among children have risen,” Sisodia had said.

Schools across the country was closed when a nationwide lockdown was imposed on March 25. Under the Unlock 5.0 guidelines, states can take a call on reopening schools in phases. Several states have begun the process while some, including the neighbouring Haryana, had announced closure again due to the rise in Covid cases.

Earlier, schools were a llowed to call students from classes IX to XII on voluntary basis from September 21.



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