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HEF scholarships program – A vision and reality

Since its inception in 2009, Himalayan Education Foundation (HEF) has been sponsoring scholarships for the students of Himalaya Inter College (HIC), who lack any other means of economic support to pursue their studies. Guided by the vision that education strengthens communities, HEF has been providing assistance to hundreds of students to facilitate their dreams of quality education to come true. It’s this pivotal activity that directly affects the future prospects of the students and their families and community at large. We can gauge the impact and  effectiveness of this program from the profiles of alumni published in the  “Himalayan Voices” newsletter every month.

Let’s find more about HEF scholarships program, how it’s  administered and its importance for the communities in and around Chaukori, from Mr. Prakash Karki, current director of HIC, who has been associated with the program since its beginning in 2009.

Prakash Karki, Director, Himalayan Inter College, Chaukori

Hello Prakash, Welcome to “Himalayan Voices”. It’s with a great sense of satisfaction that HEF has been collaborating with HIC to provide scholarships to deserving students for more than 14 years. We would like to learn more about the program. Could you please give us an overview of the scholarship program and it’s impact in the region?

Prakash: Thank you. We at HIC too are happy to be working with HEF for all these years. The scholarship program aims at providing assistance to deserving students, without which they could not pursue education. In a sense, these scholarships are vital in shaping their lives and the communities in which they live. We at HIC strive to give a broader definition of education that includes vocational, environmental, social aspects in addition to the conventional academics. We believe this holistic character of education we are trying to provide helps in building stronger and healthier communities in the Himalayan region.  

What is the current status of the program?

Prakash: For the year 2023- 2024, a total of 150 students are receiving financial assistance from HEF, out of which 100 are girls. The students range from 1 st class to 12th class. There are different categories of scholarships. Depending on the economic condition of the parents, students get 50% to 100% tuition waiver. Some of the students are given free boarding and lodging in the hostel on our campus. 

Can you please elaborate on the process by which these students are selected. The eligibility, criteria etc.? 

Prakash: Every year at the beginning of the academic year, during the admissions process, economically challenged students are encouraged to apply for an HEF scholarship. A committee comprising the director, principal, vice principal, Chief financial officer and senior faculty members scrutinises the application and selects the deserving students after making inquiries about the family economic condition. 

As we take girls’ education seriously and considering the negative societal bias towards their education, we try to see that 66% of the scholarships goes to girls. Thanks to these scholarships, there has been a significant rise in the number of girls pursuing their studies at HIC. Thanks to HEF’s vision and assistance, now girls comprise 38% of the total number of students. Once a student is eligible for the scholarship, they usually will continue to receive it till they complete their studies at HIC. 

Sometimes due to some unforeseen and unfortunate event or situation, if a student’s family could not pay the fees, they are provided with the assistance to continue their education at HIC after a process of due diligence. For example, the earning member of the family might get sick or succumb to illness or accident. We consider their cases, and the kids receive scholarships. 

Is there any assistance given by the government to economically weaker students and how do the HEF scholarships add to it?

Prakash: Yes, the government does provide scholarships. To be eligible for them, students need to apply in their 1st standard. They can’t transfer to any other school during their education period. So if any student joins HIC in class 2 or above, they are not eligible for the government scholarships. 

Another reason students prefer HIC is because the government school and colleges are located far away from Chaukori. They have to travel by public transportation changing at bus stops along the way. . That is one reason why they would like to join HIC as it is nearer and easily accessible. In addition, the quality of HIC’s education often is superior to that of the government schools. 

How much does it cost to study at HIC? How does HIC acquire funds for running its education programs?

HIC is a self financed institution, which means the total expenses for running the school are met by students’ fees. We don’t get any government aid for teachers’ salaries etc. The tuition fees range from Rs. 900 for the kindergarten to Rs 2500 for class 12. We believe every student irrespective of their economic background deserves a good education. So we try to provide an opportunity to the economically backward students to study at HIC and also we would like to  give decent salaries to the teaching staff. So, HEF’s scholarships are important in addressing these challenges.

What do you think is the impact of the scholarships on the career of the students during and after their time at HIC? How does it help the community?

One thing is that the deserving students can pursue their education at HIC in spite of the family’s economic condition. The quality of education and the environment  makes them great learners and that will stand them in good stead in the future. As you can read the stories of our alumni who had received scholarships here, I can certainly say, they reached the current positions, all due the kind assistance provided to them by HEF. We are ever grateful to the donors and sponsors who are making a significant difference to the lives of hundreds of youth in the Himalayas. And as you know, an educated youth, especially if it’s a girl, makes a lot of difference to their families and the whole community benefits from their success. .

It’s heartwarming to read their stories and to know what they have achieved. Some have joined government services like the  police and the army, some have chosen careers as diverse as nursing, teaching, Information technology, Biotechnology, multimedia, environmental studies etc.  I am sure there are budding entrepreneurs and research scholars among them, whose contribution to the society will come to a full bloom in the future.  As a result, their families and the village communities they came from benefit a lot. And with some alumni taking up environmental studies and social activism, they are going to be the leaders in addressing the issues like the climate crisis, nature conservation, gender justice etc.

Given the importance of their life stories and careers, how do you maintain contact with them?

Yes, we would like to be in touch with them and know how they are doing in their careers after they completed their studies at HIC. We are building a database of our alumni and in this age of information technology, it’s easier to reach them. We plan to invite them and conduct an alumni event during our college annual day function.. Sharing their life stories and interaction with us will surely inspire and motivate the current students to aim for greater achievements in life.

Thank you Prakash, for letting us know about the scholarship program at HIC. Any final words?

Yes, It’s wonderful to work with HEF during all these years. I express our sincere gratitude from the HIC community, to Jayant Hardikar, who started this initiative and founded HEF in the first place, Jeffrey Williams, who is coordinating the HEF scholarship program and all the members of the HEF board who have been steadfastly working with us and for us to build healthier and resilient communities in the Himalayas. Last but not the least, to the donors and sponsors, we owe our success and achievement. I invite them to our little corner in the beautiful Himalayan mountains. And stay with us and  see for themselves what their contribution means for our hill communities and how they made a difference to the lives across continents. Thank you one and all.


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