Amarpurkashi Project in India: Gramodaya Post Graduate College
Students in the grounds of the degree college
Students enjoy a class in the open air
The degree college
The college is set in beautiful grounds
Students in a tutorial
The college grounds
The college grounds
How it all began
In India, nearly 70% of the population still lives in the villages yet all the facilities are located in the towns. Why should villagers have to go the towns for further education? Why shouldn’t there be colleges and universities in the villages?
With this in mind, in 1995 the project decided to set up a degree college at Amarpurkashi, affiliated to M.J.P.Rohilkhand University, Bareilly. In its first year, nobody wanted to come simply because it was in a village. Eventually, 39 students enrolled. Their A level results were so poor that no other college would accept them. Staff of the college worked very hard with these students. Not only did they all pass but their exam results topped the whole district.
Where it is now
Since then, the college has gone from strength to strength. Its results are still outstanding and usually surpass those of all other colleges in the area. In 2013, enrolment was just over 2,000 students of whom 49% are girls. Many of these girls are Muslim. For them, the college at Amarpurkashi is their only chance of tertiary education. The project is well known in the area and Muslim parents feel that the college campus is a safe and secure place where they can send their daughters and trust that they will be all right.
From 2002, the college began offering a unique and innovative course leading to a Post-Graduate Diploma in Rural Resource Management. This course gave equal importance to practical and written work. Students learnt about rural economics, resources and problems but also went out into the field and worked with village families to formulate feasible proposals to help improve their lives and livelihoods.
In 2003, the college received authorisation to offer a B.Ed. to graduates and from 2009, it has also been able to offer post-graduate courses in Sociology, English Literature, Social Work and Geography.
In 2007, a computer centre was opened in the college and now offers courses in basic and advanced computing and conversational English. Volunteers often help by showing students how to use computers and also by teaching them conversational English.
The college is set in beautiful grounds where pupils can study outside in the winter sunshine or, in summer, inside in the cool, spacious lecture rooms. It boasts a large, well-stocked library with subscriptions to over 30 journals and four daily newspapers in Hindi and English as well as text books for all subjects and a wide range of English and Hindi novels. The library opens daily from 10am to 5pm. There is also a computer laboratory which includes a section for typewriters which students can practise on at any time and a specially constructed cubicle for modern computers.
A degree college in their very own village also means that local children can see a progression from primary school right through to degree level, encouraging them to aim high.
The project set up this degree college to serve the needs of students from rural areas. This is important because young people from rural areas do not thrive in the existing highly urbanised degree colleges; in addition, the expense of having to board in the town may be too great for them. The project's rural degree college (affiliated to a nearby university) provides easily accessible higher education in a familiar rural environment at a much reduced cost.
"The project totally changed my life. I had dropped out of primary school, been married very young and was just getting up to mischief in the village. Mukat Singh gave me some work, I taught myself to read the newspapers that arrived every day and then I got a job as office assistant in the school. Later I learnt to drive. Now both my children are studying for degrees in the college, something I could never have imagined in my wildest dreams." (Rameshi, 45, driver of the project jeep)