Breaking Educational Barriers: LDP Student Setting Precedent for India's Impoverished Girls

Breaking Educational Barriers: LDP Student Setting Precedent for India's Impoverished Girls

By: Sumana Mani, Compassion India Communications Specialist   |   Posted: August 19, 2005

K. Sheela (left) with two Compassion India LDP friends, Jelin and Brinda. "Making friends quickly is my greatest talent," claims the 19-year-old Karnataka University student. With Compassion's help, Sheela is breaking the barriers to a higher education that remain for the majority of impoverished girls in her country.

Like many teenage girls, K. Sheela loves to talk with her friends and spend time together. Teenage-girl interests aside, the 19-year-old Compassion India Leadership Development Program (LDP) student is untypical.
 
Sheela is achieving something remarkable for impoverished girls in her country: a higher education. Though great strides are being made in India, more than half of its female population remains illiterate. In India, as in many cultures in the developing world, educating daughters is not a priority, particularly in impoverished homes. Investing in a son's education takes precedence, since he will carry on the family name and contribute to the family's economic bottom line later in life.
 
Confident, extroverted Sheela is a prime example of successful intervention among impoverished girls in her culture. "I am studying for a business degree in accounting -- my life's ambition," says the first-year LDP student who attends Karnataka University in Bangalore. The 19-year-old credits Compassion for helping her to fulfill that dream.

Difficult Beginnings

Sheela's childhood circumstances do not portend her present academic success. In the impoverished neighborhood where she was raised, a semi-urban community of 300,000 people located north of Bangalore, the average income is just U.S.$54 a month. More than 50 percent of adults are unemployed. Just one in two children finishes grade school.
 
While she was growing up, Sheela's father, a telephone operator, was the only source of economic support for his wife and two children. A quality education was not in the family budget for Sheela's brother -- or for her. But that all changed when the precocious little girl was enrolled at the local Compassion-assisted Goodwill Student Center (IN-309).
 
Compassionate Intervention

At the student center, Sheela received financial assistance that enabled her parents to send their outgoing daughter to school. Included in Compassion's holistic program was the much-needed emotional support from Christian adults. "Our Compassion teachers used to encourage us in whatever we did," the college student recalls fondly.
 
When Sheela graduated from high school last year, she was awarded top honors in her school's camping program. Her outstanding academic record and leadership qualities, including her spiritual commitment, qualified her to become one of Compassion India's first LDP participants when its program began in 2004.
 
This aspiring young business leader is a role model for impoverished girls in her country. And it's not just in education. "My future plans include telling the Good News to people who have not heard about (it)," says Sheela. "I want to help people who are in need!"

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