Krishna’s Ted Talk
I am Krishna Gaire, a 20 year old from Nepal, and I would like to share my story with you about why I am here today rather than my friend Manoj.
I am the seventh child of my parents who are both illiterate. They never had an opportunity to go to a school. My childhood best friend Manoj is one of six children of his illiterate parents. Although we grew up on similar circumstances I am now studying in an American University, while my best friend Manoj dropped out of school at 15, is married with a son and has worked in Qatar as a migrant worker.
So, you many of you may be wondering how we two ended up in such different places. Well, the simple answer is I got lucky. But of course, some of you may argue that luck is what you make of it. Is not it? However, the definition of luck I have is somehow different from the usual one. Let me tell you more about it.
My luck started when I received a full scholarship from the government of Nepal to study in Budhanilkantha School, one of the best schools of the country. I was just 10 years old then. I am lucky because my brother was aware about the government scholarship. There(Budhanilkantha School) I got access to great teachers, mentors and friends who helped me make informed decisions about my education. After my 10th grade I received another scholarship from Pestalozzi International Village Trust to study IB in the United Kingdom and from there I am here in NYUAD. I am lucky because I knew I could apply for a scholarship in UK after my 10th grade. I am lucky because I knew I could apply to NYUAD after my high school. I am lucky because I was better informed and had access to resources. However, it was not the same case for Manoj.
But unlike me and more like Manoj many college seeking Nepali students are not lucky. Every year thousands of students in Nepal graduate from their high school and plan to go college. Majority of these students are first generation students. They don’t have their parents or elders to guide them. Due to their ignorance many fall victim to fraud or follow a path that may not benefit them.
In 1995 the literacy rate among 15-24 years old in Nepal was 55% but in 2011 it has increased to 85%. The number is in increasing fashion. If we assume that those 15-24 years old of 1995 are the parents of the 15-24 years old of now than we see that almost half of the parents of students like me are simply illiterate.
If those students cannot get help from their elders than who could they ask for guidance? The people who can help them are the ones that have gone through the experience that the students are going through now. People who have gone through the process of applying to a college and attending one. However, the number of people that have attended college in Nepal is few. In 2011, only 2.8% of the total population of the country graduated from college. And majority of that 2.8% graduated in recent years.
So, some months ago, I and some of my friends created a website called college sodhpuch with the aim of connecting that 2.8% to every college bound aspiring students and make them lucky just like me.
However, it was not those numbers that encouraged us to create a website. We were not even aware about those numbers until recently. The idea of the website started when we got a lot messages from many of our Nepali friends asking us about attending college. One of my friend started a Facebook group to make it easier to ask and answer questions. But we knew there were lots of other students who we do not know but still need help and Facebook group alone was not sufficient.
So, we sat down together and discussed what we could do as university level students. And we decided that creating a website. We were 4 of us in that discussion. All four of were residing in 4 different countries. I in UAE, my three friends in USA, Canada and Nepal. Even though we were living in four different time zones we figured out a way to make it work.
Now, let’s talk more about “how does College Sodhpuch work”?
I guess everybody knows what college means. Sodhpuch is a Nepali word. It means to ask or to discuss. We encourage everyone using our website to ask questions or involve in a discussions about college. Therefore, College Sodhpuch is an online forum. Unlike many online forums we have a valid team which answers the questions thereby maintain the authenticity of the answer. The answer teams consists of Nepali students studying all over the world such as Harvard, Princeton, MIT, universities in Europe, India and Nepal. We also maintain a list of students and experts who have agreed to answer questions for free and they are forwarded a question in their field when asked.
I thought that it would be very difficult to get people to answer questions without any financial incentive but we have been overwhelmed by the support from Nepali students in Nepal or abroad. This is proof that there are lots of generous and kind-hearted people in the world and only incentive they need is to know that their assistance will help change someone else’s life.
I would like to share with you a quote from one of the member of our answer team. I think it pretty much explains why lots of people are willingly to help.
Before I found help from my helpful mentors, I was lost when applying to colleges. I joined the College Sodhpuch team because I know if I can play a similar role in another prospective’s life, I would have done a great dharma.
And of course thank you messages from students who use the website always encourage us to work hard . I would like to share one of those messages which I received last month.
I am a regular follower of College Sodhpuch and without any second thoughts, I can say that your site and all of you have been a big help.[…]
I would like you to know that I got accepted into Georgetown University in USA with full scholarship and it would have not been possible if you guys had not implanted the insights of the application process in us.
Messages like this always makes us proud.
Now with the help of team members and supporters, College Sodhpuch community is not limited to an online forum. We also collect and share resources that might be beneficial to the student. We also connect with aspiring students via Facebook or Skype. And we even visit different high schools in Nepal to give presentations about the educational opportunities that are out there. We also organize question/answer session about specific topics with a member from the related field. Just last week we organized a session on studying Medicine in Nepal with a Medical student. More sessions are yet to come.
I may have been the one to tell the story of College Sodhpuch but College Sodhpuch has been a team effort from the very beginning. The generosity of our team members and supporters have helped to maintain the website and provide valuable information to the students who are in need. I would like to take this opportunity to thank our team members and supporters.
Information is power. For me, to be informed is to be lucky. I believe that everyone of us present here is lucky. Some of us may be more lucky than the other but lucky nonetheless. So, let’s share our luck to make other people lucky. From my experience, I can tell you that when you share luck, just like happiness it multiplies, it increases.
Finally, I hope you have not forgotten about my friend Manoj. Life is not all grim for him. He is now back in Nepal and happily married with a son. He is committed to make sure that his son will have the opportunity to go for higher studies if he wants to.
Thank you everyone for your support.