If you are really concerned about us, don’t be sympathetic, which just makes us dependent on someone…Just support us in such a way that we can also live independently…. Says Anneyamma, a visually impaired girl from Gulbarga supported by Mitra Jyothi for PUC and Graduation.
Considering the importance of higher education and thereby employment opportunities in the lives of visually impaired women,Mitra Jyothi started the idea of education support for VI girls in 2013 by supporting two girl students from rural Karnataka. However, this initiative was more streamlined in the year 2017.
It is still a bitter truth in India that visually impaired people do not have access to the same quality of life, education, or employment as when someone is sighted. On comparing with VI boys, the opportunities of VI girl students are further narrowed due to several social reasons. Education becomes a major hurdle for girls with sight disabilities, especially those from villages. The nearest schools/colleges could be miles away in cities, making it extremely difficult for them. Additionally, for the parents of those girls in economically backward situations, it is not affordable for them to send their children to cities where higher education options are more.
Mitra Jyothi supports the higher education of visually impaired girl students by providing the cost of college fees, books, and other assistance for the student along with residential support. The education support along with food and accommodation facilities helps many visually impaired girls from remote and rural locations access higher education. Otherwise, it would have been very difficult or impossible for them to stay in a city like Bangalore for continuing their studies. Through the education support program, we are providing them with the opportunity to access higher education and also helping them to be empowered to live in the real world. Being supported by Mitra Jyothi, they are getting the opportunity to explore our other prestigious programs like the Talking Book Library and Computer Training for the visually impaired. Through this education support program, Mitra Jyothi reaches visually impaired girl students from poor socio-economic backgrounds having a strong aspiration for knowledge gain.
When we started this program, it was just like a light from a firefly…. we are very happy that now, this program has turned into a shining beacon that is the light of education and independence in the lives of many visually impaired girls. We started this initiative in 2013 by supporting 2 VI girls in higher education. Till this year, we have supported around 20 VI girl students for higher education and at present, there are 12 girl students who are being supported by Mitra Jyothi for PUC and graduation programs.
Through this program, we help poor VI girls get access to a good education that can help them with opportunities for a better future. Mitra Jyothi identifies VI girls who have completed class 10 with good academics and enrolls them in institutes in Bangalore for higher education. Once the girls are selected for the program, they are provided with all support like braille reading/writing coaching, assistive aids usage training, computer training, mobility, life skill aspects along with food and accommodation at our center.
Harshita R, from Chitradurga, being supported by Mitra Jyothi for PUC education says, “For a girl like me, belonging to an economically struggling family, it was really scary to even dream about education after SSLC. I am thankful to Mitra Jyothi, truly from my heart, for supporting my higher education. Without this support, I would have stopped my education after SSLC. Mitra Jyothi is not only supporting me for my education but also helping me in improving my communication, socialization, and self-care skills through different activities. The library here helps us a lot in covering all the topics. The atmosphere in Mitra Jyothi boosts my confidence level and I feel proud when I walk to my college, taking care of myself independently. Also, I am blessed to get my best friends from Mitra Jyothi’s hostel and I am very happy about it. The staff who stay with us are also very dedicated and always available for us.”
Harshitha has benefited through Mitra Jyothi’s Education Support program for visually impaired girls since 2019. Currently, she is a first-year graduate student at First Grade Government College, HSR Layout, Agara, and resides in Mitra Jyothi’s accommodation facility. Harshita’s PUC program (2019 June – 2021 March) was also sponsored by Mitra Jyothi’s education support drive. She is suffering from low vision from birth and was raised in an economically insecure family. Her father is blind by birth, running a small grocery shop in their native place, and her only brother is pursuing a diploma course. She lost her mother in 2010, due to cardiac arrest.
After completion of her graduation, Harshita aspires to prepare for the Karnataka Administrative Service (KAS) examination, and by obtaining a government job she wishes to support her father. Moreover, she dreams about the moment her father smiles with a lot of happiness when she achieves her goals in life.
Education is a powerful tool for achieving socio-economic independence and empowerment. The opportunities for higher education are the first step in empowering these visually impaired girls. Higher education and other skill development enable these girls to be eligible for various employment opportunities and thereby lead an independent life.