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Ensuring that poor Rural Children Study Too
Ushatai Lokhande Charitable Trust  helps rural children to get the education they deserve
 
There are centres of excellence in Maharashtra at schools, colleges as well as post-graduate/research levels in Mumbai and Pune, but rural children, especially girls, often do not know how to get into these institutions with their own efforts. Many rural girls are married off early and do not have an opportunity to get proper education. 
 
Laxman Lokhande is a well-known social worker and successful businessman in the real estate and housing industry. Financial constraints during his childhood prevented him from getting a formal education. This motivated him to create an organisation for children in rural areas to get access to formal education, especially high school and above. In 1999, he set up the Ushatai Lokhande Charitable Trust (ULCT) which runs three schools and an orphanage (called the Mai Balgruh) at Sangise, a small village 40km from Pune city and takes pride in providing a healthy, secure and conducive environment for students. 
ULCT is fortunate to have the support of a large number of charities, both local and international, as well as large corporate houses in the form of CSR (corporate social responsibility) funding. 
 
Ranjana Taskar, with a masters degree in biochemistry who has been involved with education for two decades, is the vice president at ULCT. The organisation works with various social groups, individual donors and philanthropists to expand the scope and reach of its work. The projects are classified as Sangise-1, Sangise-2 and Sangise-3.
 
Sangise-1 was a school project started in 2004 with 32 students and now has a strength of 135. It runs a high school which had 45 students who appeared for the SSLC exam in 2014-15 and secured a 100% result. Eight villages have access to the facility and a school bus, donated by a German company, helps bring them to school. The school has an e-learning facility that is supported by the Rotary Club. It is equipped with a 10kw solar power plant sponsored by Orelicon Balzers Coating India to ensure 24x7 electricity supply, since electricity remains erratic in rural India. The company has also helped it build a toilet block. The campus has solar water heaters sponsored by Vipla Plastics. 
 
Another company, BMC Software, supported a basic industrial training centre which was completed in 2015. This will help the rural children to acquire technical skills and stand on their own feet. The training centre admits 20 students in each course. They are also taught the skills for vocations like electrician, plumbing, carpentry, masonry and even farming.
 
Sangise-2, at Kaute Malkapur in Ahmednagar district, started in 2010 with 18 eighth standard students with one classroom. It now has 72 students. Construction of a new school building is being supported by BMC Software. The district has acute water scarcity and ULCT has a fully functional bore-well in the school. Sangise-3, started in 2010, is another school project at Shendewadi. Support from Fiserv Inc for a bore-well and a school bus has led to a trebling of the number of students. 
 
The task ULCT has undertaken is vast and the Trust encourages people to support the education of needy children through its Samarthan scheme. This involves a donation of Rs1.5 lakh deposited in a joint account where the donor is a joint-holder. Only the interest on the corpus is used for the education and other needs of one adopted child. After the child finishes school, the next child will get the same benefit.
 
Ranjana Taskar is keen on education of girl children and is happy that the Trust has made a difference. The number of girls attending school has more than doubled and is even higher than the number of boys. More importantly, early marriage of girls has declined; they are allowed complete school and even take up vocational courses such as nursing or secretarial training.
 
Donations to ULCT have exemption under Section 80-G of Income-tax Act, 1961. 
 

 

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