Asha Honours Students at Celebration of Learning 2011
‘Every day a child from the slums goes to college, every time they graduate, every time they find a job, a small miracle is taking place.’
These were the words of India’s Home Minister, Mr P Chidambaram at Asha’s Celebration of Learning 2011, as an audience of 500 gathered to celebrate the achievements of Asha students entering higher education this year.
It was an evening filled with the presence of miracles. It was a miracle to witness the 188 slum children who have been admitted to Delhi University and other prestigious private colleges in one of the most competitive years ever for university places. First year student Pinki from Trilokpuri slum colony described the miracle in her own life as Asha helped her resist her parents’ plans to marry her off at 16 and instead continue studying to become a teacher. Last week she became the first girl from her family and her entire village to join college. New graduate Diwakar beamed with pride and emotion as he personally thanked Mr Chidambaram for supporting his class of 28 students, who were the first children from the slums to gain admission to university in 2008, and have this year completed their bachelor’s degrees.
Along with the Hon’ble Home Minister, Asha was delighted to welcome honoured guests, all of whom have contributed to Asha’s Higher Education Programme. Mr K R Kamath, Chairman and Managing Director, Punjab National Bank and Mr Sunil Pant, Chief General Manager, State Bank of India both spoke sincerely about their admiration of the children’s achievements and their commitment to enhancing the role of financial inclusion in improving the lives of India’s poor. Professor Francis Clooney, Director of the Centre for the Study of World Religions at Harvard University praised the children for maintaining the courage and the motivation to study and do well amidst such difficult living conditions. And the presence of Ms Lavina Collins, Deputy Chief of Mission, Embassy of Ireland highlighted the strong role of support the Irish Government and the Irish people have played in Asha’s Higher Education Programme since the beginning.
In an address to those gathered, Dr Kiran Martin described her pleasure at seeing the numbers of children going to university increase year on year since 2008. She emphasised that none of this would have been possible without the values that define our work. Dr Martin said, ‘The principles that define Asha: love, equality, social justice and a dignity for all, in their practical expression have achieved miraculous results.’ But on a serious note, she also spoke about the future of higher education for the urban poor. Asha has a goal to send 5,000 slum children to university in the next 5 years. Dr Martin appealed to those present to come together to think of ways to expand the support so that one day every child, regardless of their background, will have the opportunity to finish school and go to college.
We were so happy to have many of our friends and supporters present on this special day. We would also like to say thank you to the overseas supporters who wrote to congratulate the students on their success. It is an incredible encouragement to them to know that they have support of the Asha family all over the world.