Most often, children studying in rural areas miss out on good colleges because of the lack of resources. Similar was the situation of Ketan Deshpande, the Founder of the NGO, Friends Union for Energising Lives (FUEL), and his friends who had little to no support back when they were still in school.
“After completing our grade 12, none of us knew what to do – what forms to fill out, what colleges to apply for, what exams to take. We lacked a lot of guidance in finding our way ahead at the time,” says Ketan.
Not wanting a similar plight for the generations after him, he compiled all information regarding major entrance exams and educational opportunities after class 12. He then published the compilation as a book at the age of 19 to help students find a career path.
The book was widely appreciated by many people, including the then President of India, Dr APJ Abdul Kalam. Dr Kalam invited Ketan and his friends to meet him, where he encouraged and motivated them to further the mission of bridging this rural-urban divide that exists in the country.
“We took that challenge and initially started as a career counselling organisation through student activism. Later on, as it got a good response, we formed an organisation called FUEL in Pune, which is dedicated to skill development, career counselling and scholarships, through which we have reached about 1 million students,” says Ketan.
Formed in 2008, FUEL is a non-profit that is on a mission to provide the youth with access to essential information about career opportunities.
What started as a career counselling centre, now primarily caters to four main verticals that can ‘fuel’ children’s futures – career guidance, skill development, academic coaching and scholarships, and facilitation of internships and opportunities for the youth.
“We work with schools which cater to underserved communities, where we provide the students with career counselling, initially to guide them on career opportunities. After that, we identify students who are interested in going for higher education and will not drop out, especially girl children,” Ketan shares.
FUEL coaches the children in science, maths, English, and other subjects, which are essential for STEM careers. Ketan says that the idea is to encourage them to innovate and get them into STEM learning programmes.
In terms of skill development, FUEL upskills the youth for jobs in the IT sector and trains them to gain the skills needed for the job. The goal is to break the intergenerational cycles of poverty and help them find a better future.
Through the education programme, they have impacted about 10 lakh children and through the skilling programme, about 88,000 youth across 13 states of India.
While FUEL was a volunteer-driven organisation in the initial years, it is now a social enterprise with 110 employees who “fuel” its growth. In addition, it also has a Kalam Fellows programme, which comprises students from Engineering and Management Schools, who volunteer their time to help the children.
BYJU’S Education for All (EFA), which is on a mission to make education accessible and inclusive, has joined hands with FUEL to further their like-minded mission. We have distributed licences to the student beneficiaries of the non-profit to ensure that children have fair access to education.
“From not even having touched a digital device, to now being able to listen, understand and revise the BYJU’S Content, the partnership has been a boon for the children,” says Ketan. “The interactive media content from BYJU’S has been able to help the children understand the concepts clearly and also help them prepare for the competitive exams better.”
Education is a must for every child and in today’s world, digital education has found an important place in their lives. With the increasing competition, we must enable children in need with a fair chance. With NGO partners like FUEL, we hope that we can further the mission of making education for all.
BYJU’S Education for All is reaching out to underprivileged children across India. Through the BYJU’S Give programme, you can contribute to this mission and help children with quality digital learning. You can donate an old device, which we will refurbish, and then use the money raised to buy a new device. In case you do not have a device, you can also donate to an NGO partner, who will use the money to buy devices for children.
In both cases, we will load our BYJU’S Think & Learn premium content onto these devices and distribute them to children in need.
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