|Name||Mr. Vijender (Sam) Singh|
|Organization||Pardada Pardadi Educational Society (PPES)|
|One-liner||Mr. Singh, an NRI, returned to India after 30 years and started a school for girls based on an ingenious model. Result: empowered and self-sustaining girls.|
Mr. Singh was born and brought up in the town of Anupshahar in Bulandshahr district. His dad was a lawyer. He completed his schooling from Aligarh Muslim University and did his engineering in Punjab. After engineering he joined the textile industry. However, he aspired to study further and moved to Massachusetts, USA to gain a Masters in Textile engineering in 1965. Post that, he has been with Du Pont right up to his retirement in 1999.
Post his retirement, Mr. Singh moved to his birthplace, Anupshahar, to serve his country by working towards rural welfare. He lamented that the state of a majority of the rural folk was reduced to focus on their next meal, with some leading lives no better than that of a beggar. Even though the IITs/IIMs had done India proud globally, unfortunately the education system has not helped the rural areas much. The age-old feudal society based on caste only aggravated the problems. Even more heartening was the state of females and the girl child. Far from being empowered, they were not even counted by parents as children. So he decided to improve the quality of life for rural women.
In 2000, he started an all girls school providing free education in Anupshahar based on a unique and ingenious idea.
At school half day is spent in regular education and the other half in vocational training. Mr. Singh has incentivized educating the girl child by two methods.
First, for each day a girl attends school, PPES deposits ten rupees into her bank account. Upon graduation, the student can access this money on the day of her marriage (after the age of 18) or her 21st birthday – whichever comes first. This builds a corpus of around 30,000 Rupees.
Second, the students are trained in vocational skills. These enable them to led self-sustainable lives.
Post schooling, PPES encourages the girls to work and save for at least 3 years. BY the time they get married, the girls would have almost Rs 1 lakh in savings and a steady income of 3,000/month. This would empower them and live a life of dignity.
The school has seen great success and growth. From 45 students when he started in 2000, currently 1000 girls are on roll. 3 batches have graduated and are leading happy lives.
But Mr. Singh is humbled by the opportunities available to serve. He compares his work to a drop in the ocean and says he has just begun. In his tehsil there are around 50,000 families below-poverty-line (earning less than rupees 20 per day). He would like to expand his school facility from serving 1000 to around 50,000 students and in turn their families.
The journey so far has not been without road-blocks for Mr. Singh.
Firstly, people did not trust him with his intentions. Indians have long been victims of being misled and deceived by the government and authorities. As a result a deep distrust towards anything optimistic had been lodged in the villagers. They questioned his model of targeting only the girl child.
Also, they were skeptical of his promise of job-guarantee for the girls after school. In spite of Indians running global corporations and he himself having led an MNC, the rural folk were not exposed the operational capabilities of fellow Indians. So they doubted whether he could build and run a sustainable school.
His solution to these challenges was to respect their doubt and continuously educate them about his intentions. His perseverance helped him start small with 45 students. But once the school was up and running, people trusted his noble intentions. However, not all parents were impressed by the school. The father of some girls took advantage of the freebies like free clothes, books, bicycle, etc. and he would sell these the very next day the girl enrolled. Mr. Singh accepted these as side-effects of his initial learning process and has become wiser along the way.
To all the readers, Mr. Singh reminds to not underestimate the power of a girl child. He testifies that provided proper coaching and a good environment, girls can do wonders. He requests others to build similar schools. He says if he can do it in such a short period of time facing a challenging environment, anyone should be able to do it in other parts of the country. Passion is all that is required. He would like to see an India where every girl is socially and financially independent.
Also, in order to improve the state of rural India, create livelihood opportunities in and around the villages and towns. Mass transit to urban areas for employment will not help alleviate poverty.
About “Pardada Pardadi”:
Since 2000, Pardada Pardadi Educational Society (PPES) has been improving the lives of girls in rural India. Its mission is to uplift and empower girls from the poorest section of society by providing free education and vocational training – creating a new generation of self-reliant and educated girls who will break the cycle of poverty in the region. PPES is based in the village of Anupshahar, in the Bulandshahr district of Uttar Pradesh, India. This area is one of India’s poorest. It is infamous for being crime-ridden. Moreover, it is one of the least-educated and least-literate sections of India. PPES plans to educate and provide job training to at least one daughter of each of the 50,000 poor families of Anupshahar, leading to self-sufficiency in a modern world. Thus PPES hopes to improve the quality of life for rural women and hence rural India.