Milind has been associated with the Akshara Programme for the past seven years. After passing the SSC Exam in 2006, he got an opportunity to study at MUWCI (Class of 2006-2008). Here, he started to learn about life and society, along with receiving a good education. The two IB years were not easy, but with Akshara support, he faced the difficulties. Milind then went to the United States to pursue an undergraduate degree in Computer Science at Westminster College in Missouri. Unfortunately, his visa was not renewed after he took a gap year in 2010. While he has been trying to get his visa renewed so that he can complete his degree, Milind is also completing his HSC exam in India and working with Akshara as an administrative and accounts assistant.
Ever since the Akshara programme started in my valley, they have engaged in various projects and activities to improve education and social life in the villages. Akshara is the face of meaningful education in India. In the future, I wish Akshara reaches every single village in India.
Prashant recalls that before Akshara, school was more about mugging up and copying down. In Akshara, he says, it was more about getting to know things. For the first time he learned science through activity. He credits Akshara for helping him to become more outgoing and to gain the confidence to talk to all sorts of people, whether from the city or from another country. For example, in the Engineering college where he had gone for admission, he confidently stepped in to help a rural student who was having difficulty communicating with a clerk. When Prashant took his studies seriously in the 10th standard, because of Akshara, his younger sister Poonam, and other students who lived nearby, imitated him and started studying hard too!
Thanks to Akshara, I became sensitive towards the work my mother had to do. Now I help her with housework. I fill water from the public tap so she doesn’t have to. Akshara supported me even when I dropped out from the college due to personal reasons. I got an opportunity to work at Akshara as a volunteer. During my work, I understood the kind of work Akshara does on the MUWCI campus. I learnt the manners and etiquette of public speaking. I also realized the importance of being punctual.
Devendra Chintaman Bharam
When Devendra was in school, he often thought that much of what the Akshara team taught, went over his head. It was only when he moved into the wider world as a young adult, that he realised the advantage that exposure to the Akshara activities had given him! He realised that he had better communication skills, more confidence and sharper critical thinking than many of his colleagues. He could speak English and express himself without any hesitation. He could write applications and participate in group discussions and debates. Devendra is amazed that so much learning happened in such a pleasant way!
Akshara had a tradition of students telling the teachers if there was something wrong. Even now in my college, I can stand up and tell the teacher if something is wrong. I want to finish my 3rd year of diploma in Civil Engineering and work and earn money. With the earnings I can go for further education on my own and can help my family financially.
As Manik gets ready for another day of work as Assistant Chef at Le Meridien hotel, he sometimes reflects on the opportunities he may have missed if he had not been part of Akshara’s first batch. That exposure, he feels, benefitted him and set him on the path to further education. In fact, his parents very much doubted if he would even study beyond his 12th std. Much to their surprise, Manik not only studied, he completed his graduation in Hospitality from Pune University – one of the first college graduates from his village!
I didn’t even really know what Hotel Management is… It all sounded very hi-fi. The initial years were very difficult but because of Akshara, I got lots of exposure. I met lots of people. And I think now that I am wiser than before. People view me differently now. It was all possible because of Akshara.