Bharat Calling: Guiding youth towards higher education
Posted by Sheran Mehra

Sujeet Soni (18), a young and intelligent youth of Hoshangabad, his dream was to become an IAS officer. His ambition was nothing unusual or different for people of his age who see themselves as change agents of society. Except that in Sujeet’s case, his socio-economic background, financial hardship, and lack of awareness of better educational opportunities were significant roadblocks in his aim of becoming a civil servant.

Laxmi Evne had to travel 20 km every day, much of it on foot, to reach high school. Coming from a tribal background and brought up in a non-descript and remote village in Hoshangabad district of Madhya Pradesh, life was a fight for survival. Even as Laxmi dreamt of studying in a university, the first girl in her village to do so, lack of awareness about higher educational opportunities and limited resources were significant impediments. It didn’t help that the nearest university from her village was located 300 km away at Sagar district in the state.

Started as an internship project in Hoshangabad district, Bharat Calling, a DBS-TISS venture has not only made Sujeet’s and Laxmi’s dream come true, but also linked thousands of students to higher education. Sandeep Mehto a TISS alumnus & the Founder of Bharat Calling, during his internship discovered that many students drop out after basic schooling as they are unaware of what to do next. According to estimates, eight out of 10th students in higher education in India are from urban, rich-income background whereas a staggering 82% of the population studies in government schools. In fact, a study carried out by Bharat Calling revealed that 86% of students drop out after 10th class due to poverty, distance of educational institution from home, lack of information and motivation, inadequate transport facilities, quality of teachers, social environment and many other factors. In such a scenario, the potential of bridging this urban – rural gap in higher education is significant.

With Bharat Calling as a platform, Mehto has helped marginalized students studying in rural government schools to gain access to quality higher education across India.

Sandeep Mehto, who founded Bharat Calling along with a friend, was among the first generation in his family to complete higher education. Having overcome personal hardships and social prejudices, Sandeep himself knows the obstacles that students from underprivileged backgrounds and underserved markets face in attaining higher education. In an attempt to address these issues Bharat Calling provides information about the best institutes in India and also trains the students for competitive exams, they also resolve logistical issues that students face to travel to other cities in order to appear for competitive exams. The venture that initially covered only one school has now spread to 142 schools with more than 188 role models in higher education and ensures no drop outs.

Covering 20,000 students annually Bharat Calling aims to reach out to 75,000 students in the next 3 years. It is progressively increasing awareness by providing learning tools and young learned tutors at low cost. With the help of official permission from the government of India, Bharat Calling has spread their word to the larger lot.

For DBS Bank India, who has partnered with TISS and launched the DBS-TISS Social Entrepreneurship Programme, Bharat Calling is one of the 21 ventures they have supported in the past 2 years as a commitment to give back to the society. DBS Bank not only seed funds but also acts as a mentor to various innovative entrepreneurs from TISS. With the unique initiative Portraits of Purpose (PoP), DBS aims to share the stories of the Social Entrepreneurs with you. DBS is dedicated towards Bharat Calling, who helps children get quality education and hope to bring about a significant change in the lives of the people in Hoshangabad. Watch Sandeep’s journey so far:

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