Asha International Education Program
We believe that our students should have the chance to study overseas and that an international education qualification, and the experience gained from living abroad, can develop our best and brightest into role models, ambassadors and change-makers.
Why international education?
With over 3600 Asha students having entered university in Delhi, it’s is only natural that some of the most ambitious will want to study further, at higher levels and travel abroad.
And why not?! Why should an international education, and the advantages, worldliness and confidence that it brings, be reserved for wealthier Indian students. Our students have the same hopes and dreams as their middle-class neighbours in Delhi. So, starting in 2016, Asha has helped a small number of students into postgraduate studies in Australia and the United Kingdom. Our students have studied computer science, mathematics, management, international economics and finance and international relations.
We do this for two reasons. First, our students have the right to dream big. If education is a human right, it extends all the way from pre-primary to PhD. Second, it is our belief that the qualifications and exposure that these students will gain can position them to become leaders and change makers. We want to empower slum communities in Delhi and some of these students will position themselves to have strong voice on behalf of their communities. They will become ambassadors, advocates and role models and help drive the process of development and change in Delhi’s slums.
How do we do it?
We work with universities to identify and create scholarships for Asha’s most talented students.
We identify, interview and pre-qualify these talented students who want to pursue a masters or PhD program overseas. Then we support these students with English language training from our dedicated volunteer teachers and help them apply for admission, for a passport and for a visa.
We provide mentoring as they transition to study abroad, learning new ways to study and how to live independently in a foreign country. We help them with job placement advice after they graduate, through our networks.
Meet our students: the maths genius, the computer wiz and more
With help from Asha, Chandan Singh won a prestigious Chevening Scholarship and has completed his masters in pure mathematics from Imperial College in London. He also undertook a three month “future research talent” award at Australian National University in Canberra. He was supported in both places by members of Friends of Asha.
The next step for Chandan is a PhD program. When he competes this, he will be the first person from the slums of Delhi to gain a PhD. His friends and fellow students at Asha already call him “Professor Chandan” and his example inspires many younger students to dream big.
Chandan: In his own words
“I am the son of a labourer. My father works in a copper wire shop where he carries heavy wire boxes from trucks and looks after storage. He travels around 14km each way on his bicycle every day. He earns USD150 every month. I have lived in a small slum shack along with seven members of my family.
I studied in a government school in Hindi. It was for the first time when I studied the English language in college. With all the financial support and guide ace from Dr Kiran Martin, I overcame the language barrier and came out at a college topper and became the first member of my family to go to university.
There are several reasons why an opportunity to study abroad has been significant to me. It has opened a whole new world to me that I never imagined before. It broke a lot of presumptions I had about what I could become. It has broadened my horizons for all sorts of possibilities.
Nowadays I don’t hesitate to explore opportunities or write to professors from any country when I pursue my career. I feel that I have learned a plethora of things by going outside of India – staying away from my family, managing money, planning my time, networking, decision making and many things.”
Mahinder was Asha’s first international student, travelling to Melbourne, Australia for a computer science masters program from 2016 to 2018. He now works for Macquarie Bank in Sydney. In Melbourne, he lived at Trinity College and was mentored and supported by Friends of Asha Australia. Mahinder now mentors other Asha students who study in Australia.
Abhishek Handa is in his final months of a masters in management degree at Sydney University. He studied a bachelor of commerce at Delhi University and interned at Macquarie and the International Monetary Fund in Delhi. He is supported through the Sydney University India Equity Scholarship, which provides full tuition and living expenses for one Asha student each year.
Amritesh Maurya has started a masters in international finance and economics at Queensland University, studying on-line from Delhi until Australia reopens its borders to international students. He interned with the Australian High Commission, Macquarie and Mazars and is mentored by Gopi Bahl from Macquarie in Delhi.
Tushar Joshi will start a masters in international relations at Sydney University in July this year, initially studying online from Delhi. Tushar has been mentored by Nicholas Duvivier from the British High Commission in Delhi, where he interned. He has an honours degree in history fromDelhi University and studied English with Asha’s volunteer teacher Ken Xxxx in the United Kingdom.
From these stories it is clear that the key elements of success for these students are:
- Support and mentoring from Asha and from the friends of Asha community
- Internship programs in Delhi
- Scholarships from overseas universities for the Asha students
- English language training to enable transition from Hindi language study to study in English
We have a growing number of students in our pipeline for international education. The success of the past crop of students is inspiring the next cohort to look at opportunities overseas and we have a particular focus now on generating opportunities for female students, working with their families to gain their trust and help the student and family see the future possibilities for young women in the slums.
Mohini has been part of the Asha family since she was nine years old, when she joined a children’s group. With hard work and guidance, she scored well in her school exams and secured a place at the prestigious Institute of Home Economics at Delhi University. She lives with her five family members in the Tigri slum where her father is a day labourer and her mother is a housemaid. She interned at the Australian High Commission in 2019, where she learnt many soft skills, becoming more expressive and confident. She scored an impressive 8.41 out of 10 as her GPA in her second year. She plans to study a masters in communication at Deakin University in Melbourne and is working on her English language qualification to gain entry to Deakin. She wants to use her current qualifications and her forthcoming communications studies to return to India and pursue Asha’s agenda through communications for development work. “If I had not been a member of the Asha family, I would have been married after high school and possibly have had children by now” says Mohini. She is an excellent Asha Ambassador and gives hope to younger Asha students in her community in Delhi.
Shahzadi is 23 years old and lives in the Zakhira slum community in Delhi with her parents, five sisters and one brother. The family migrated from Bihar State 35 years ago and her father works as a driver of a goods carrier van, earning USD200 per month. Shahzadi has been with Asha for seventeen years. Her mother was part of a ladies group and she was part of a children’s group. Since childhood she has shown a keen desire to script her own destiny, but met resistance from her conservative Muslim parents and community and at one point was nearly married to a groom selected by her father. Asha has guided her and advocated for her, at times mediating with her parents who wilted to terminate her studies. She scored 86 per cent in her school exams despite these challenges. With help from Asha and financial support she was admitted to BA (political science hons) in Kalindi College of Delhi University. She has interned at the Australian High Commission, Macquarie and the International Monetary Fund, exposing her to the rich experiences of a professional and multicultural work environment. From undergraduate studies she progressed to a Masters program in Political Science at Delhi University, completing with a successful first division result. She became the first Muslim girl from the Delhi slums to complete a masters degree. Crucial to this has been financial support from Asha for her student fees and to purchase a laptop for her studies. During Delhi’s COVID-19 lockdowns her family received groceries from Asha while her father was out of work. Shahzadi is a role model for younger Asha students and has been an active Corona Warrior, working on response and relief activities in the slums during the COVID crisis.
The International Education Program is made possible through the support of our partners:
We would like to recognise past generous support from Melbourne University and the Australian National University.
We would also like to recognise the critical support from internship providers, employers and individual teachers and mentors including Macquarie and the Macquarie Foundation, the British High Commission and the Australian High Commission in New Delhi, the International Monetary Fund, Gopi Bahl, Ken Xxxx, Robert Johansen, Jean Preet, Chris Elstoft, Nicholas Duvivier, and Elizabeth Peak.