Vidyashankari (pronounced ‘vidyaashankarii’) is a unique program launched by the Adi Shankara Brahmavidya Peetham (ASBP) for promoting education among children of families residing in remote Himalayan villages around Uttarkashi.Under this scheme, students are enrolled by the ASBP in various government schools. These students are carefully selected after taking in to account their individual merit, family background etc. Their educational and also other essential needs are sponsored by ASBP. At present there are fifty enrolled students in various government and some private schools. These students are from the Himalayan villages of Ravada, Bhangeli, Sunnagar. They are reached by a 6 km trek along steep mountain paths starting from Gangnani on the main road.
A survey was done in the aftermath of the unprecedented floods which affected the entire Uttarakhand Himalayas in mid-June 2013. About four tonnes of relief material was mobilized from various donors and well-wishers particularly the two organizations which are working in tandem with ASBP, viz., ‘Namarupa’ and ‘Moksha’. Getting this relief material to the villages high up in the hills, accessible only by a hazardous trek, was a significant logistical challenge. ASBP had to organize fifty mules for transporting educational materials, food supplies medicines and also other articles for day-to-day use to these villages to address the immediate contingency needs of the flood-affected village families. It is difficult to imagine the intense hardship and suffering to which these families were put. They have suffered loss of lives and livelihoods as their crops and fields have been wiped out. They are so remote that they have no access to ‘civilization’; the government response is very slow and inadequate. Each village has about seventy families with about 200 adults.After trying to address in a small way the immediate essential needs of these families, a long-term outreach program is in progress with the focus on educating the children.
Himalayan Village Children
Bhangeli Village view with trek route visible
Two brahmacharis, Br.Ram ji and Br.Ranjan ji have started teaching the children by taking classes for them on a regular basis in Sunnagar. Another well-wisher, Francois Bernard, a cyclist who has been travelling from the Netherlands and is now in India, has also been rendering valuable help in this work.
In addition to the fifty students currently enrolled, an additional twenty are to be enrolled very soon.
We invite volunteers with skills (such as in any of the vocations, handicrafts, computer skills etc.) who enjoy the challenge of staying and helping in these villages, to join us in training these children and young adults. It is not very fruitful to just sponsor students for just an year or so and then leave them to their own devices. Therefore, the aim of Vidyashankari, this long-term education program is to facilitate and mentor these children from the sixth standard (age 12) till they are out of higher secondary school i.e., twelfth standard (age 18) by the year 2020. The necessary funds for this project have to be accordingly mobilized. The cost of sponsoring one student for one year is Rupees Twelve thousand (equivalent to $200).
The focus is on 70 students to start with and then to increase the number to about 100 students eventually, with the aim of really making a difference in their lives. We invite all well-wishers of the Peetham to generously support this initiative and make it a success.
NUMBER OF YEARS OF SPONSORSHIP
COST OF SPONSORSHIP
( FIGURES IN BRACKETS ARE THE AMOUNTS IN DOLLAR TERMS
All donations to the Peetham are eligible for tax deduction under 80G of the Indian IT act.
Village View with clouds
Students walking along a rubble path