The valley of Kashmir has suffered tremendous loss due to ongoing turmoil that has lasted decades now. The economy, education and most aspects of daily life have suffered and shifted due to a sustained abnormal environment. Some of the worst effected are our young and innocent. At an age when we expect children to enjoy a normal life of education and play, the children of Kashmir have to contend with a high stress physical and mental condition - often considering survival and education in parallel. Support structures are often not available. In a place like Kashmir, for a majority of families education is secondary because they face too many hardships while fulfilling other basic needs. Besides, in the rural areas and in some impoverished pockets of Srinagar city and towns, children can also share the burden of earning a livelihood for their families. Thus many children remain deprived of educational and developmental opportunities. This is directly reflected, for example, in the lower than national literacy rates. At a time when the world average literacy rate is 84%  and the average rate in India is 74% , these rates in Jammu and Kashmir are a dismal 67% with ranges of 59% in district Budgam and 71% in the capital Srinagar . The other disquieting features, besides low literacy rates are high drop-out rates, gender disparity and mismatch between education and employment. The average drop out rate after middle school (8th grade) is 16% and is more profound in females. One in every two Kashmiri girls is illiterate compared to one in every three boys. Some districts like Kupwara have female literacy levels as low as 50.95%. The valley also has the highest unemployment rates amongst the northern parts of India.
These facts contribute to the serious issues facing Kashmir. As noted above, a considerable number of children in Kashmir are either unable to go to school or settle for highly sub-standard education. The founders and people of KEI, associated with Kashmir either by virtue of being from that part of the world or by being sympathetic to the problems in Kashmir, are all believers of giving back and strongly posit that education is the solution. All the members also have extensive experience and knowledge of that area. In the very beginning, KEI wants to change the ground situation with the motive that no promising Kashmiri child, that wants to receive education and bring a positive change in their life and the society in general, should be denied that right to education due to financial constraints or lack of enabling environments. KEI appreciates the impact quality education has had historically in changing nations and contributing to the success of societies.
With this in mind, KEI started a pilot project right after its inception under which 19 deserving and promising students in various districts of Kashmir were awarded tuition scholarships. These students were hand picked by the founders of KEI based on school visits, recommendations from teachers and then followed by home visits. The students' progress was tracked over a year and the results were impressive. Most students performed brilliantly. One of them qualified for the prestigious All India Engineering Entrance Examination (AIEEE) and is currently at National Institute of Technology (NIT), Srinagar. Another student qualified the state level Veterinary Sciences entrance and is currently at Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology (SKUAST). With these encouraging results, KEI adopted this project as a major initiative and this is currently our High School Scholarship project. The students under this program are referred to as KEI Scholars.
Mechanism of Selection
The selection mechanism is a very transparent and scientific approach.
Once the eligible application forms are received, the information furnished by the applicants is incorporated into an electronic database for easy storage and analysis.
A scientific formula has been devised, which gives weightage to merit, annual household income and number of school going children. By incorporating this ranking system the process in automated and minimizes any human intervention
This is followed by shortlisting of the applicants for whom all the information provided in the application forms will be verified by our volunteers. All verification is documented. After complete verification, a selection list is prepared and a certain number of students are selected from the top of the list for our scholarship
Advertisements and application forms for the most recent intake can be downloaded here.
Since 2008, KEI has supported numerous students and KEI is proud to be part of their journey towards a better future. Figure 1 depicts the growth in the number of scholars over the years which is expected to grow further. Since its inception, the increase in the number of success stories has been heart warming. In the most recent state board examinations in 2011, 10 KEI Scholars appeared in high school examination (10th). Every scholar was successful, 9 secured distinctions with 6 securing more than 90%. In the same year 13 scholars appeared in the higher secondary examinations (12th), 10 secured distinctions.
Figure 1. Growth in the number of scholars over the years with projections for 2013 and 2014.
Figure 2. Salient features of the survey conducted over summers of 2010 and 2011.
In addition to extending the scholarship to more deserving students, KEI also wants to enhance its mentorship program. As part of the 2010 and 2011 internships, a report was submitted to KEI by our interns Tabir Akhter and Sabra Bhat based on a survey of KEI scholars (Figure 2).
Figure 3. Results of the survey describing the needs of KEI Scholars in addition the financial assistance.
Besides financial support, which is critical, another aspect that was a resounding voice from our scholars was counseling and mentorship (Figure 3). As a result of this, KEI has formalized its mentorship program and created a separate project around it.
You can read about other KEI projects here.
If you would like to donate money to support our projects, please click here.