It is the dream of all parents that their child should pursue a professional course in engineering or medicine, after passing the entrance examination. Yet, how many are able to achieve this, even if their child is gifted? This is where Dakshana Foundation comes in, to help gifted children from economically backward families.
Noor and Sadika, from a tiny village near Kargil in Jammu & Kashmir, are examples. From a village with no electricity or hospital within a radius of 15km, the two girls were given a one-year scholarship to study at Pune and prepare for their medical entrance exams. They are the first from their village to be sent for further studies anywhere beyond Delhi and will be the first to attend medical college next year.
Dakshana Foundation was established by Mohnish Pabrai, investor and hedge fund manager, who made news in 2007, when he won a bid to have lunch with Warren Buffett. That money went to charity. A year earlier, Mr Pabrai had set up Dakshana with the objective of alleviating poverty through education. Dakshana’s mission is to focus on investing in the delivery of world-class education opportunities for exceptionally gifted children from impoverished rural backgrounds in India.
The inspiration for setting up Dakshana, for Mr Pabrai and his wife, Harina Kapoor, was the Ramanujan School of Mathematics at Patna (Bihar), founded by Anand Kumar, 33, a local mathematician, and Abhayanand, 52, Patna’s deputy director-general of police and a lover of physics.
In 2006, Dakshana signed a memorandum of understanding with the ministry of human resources and development to prepare deserving, but disadvantaged, students from the 595+ Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalayas across India for the IIT entrance exams. Dakshana does this by offering a two-year scholarship to selected students after they complete class 10, while they are studying for their class 11th and 12th of the Central Board of Secondary Education course.
Since 2015, Dakshana has been offering one-year scholarships to help underprivileged students from state government schools, after class 12, to prepare for the JEE or medical entrance exams. During the year, all costs incurred for coaching, boarding and lodging, cost of books and cost of application forms, for each student, are borne by Dakshana. “The programme is absolutely free for beneficiaries,” says Sharmila Pai. The Foundation now has 400 Dakshana scholars undergoing training which is fully funded by Dakshana at six locations across India.
Dakshana’s track-record of results has been excellent. “A total 1,100 of 2,044 Dakshana-sponsored underprivileged scholars, have been accepted by IITs and another 800 to NITs; an aggregate acceptance rate of 51% at IIT-JEE over the past eight years,” says Sharmila Pai, chief operating officer of Dakshana Foundation.
Dakshana is headquartered at Kadus Village, Pune. The entire operation is headed by an army veteran, colonel Ram Kumar Sharma, who has fought the three wars for India. At 76 years, colonel Sharma runs Dakshana like a young, vibrant CEO of a multinational conglomerate. He brings with him the vast experience of managing a large operation with ease and success. Fondly known as ‘Dadaji’ by the scholars at all Dakshana Centres of Excellence, colonel Sharma is a philanthropist in the true sense as he works full-time for Dakshana for a remuneration of one rupee a year.
Dakshana’s team comprises mainly its alumni who have been beneficiaries and have graduated as engineers but have decided to come back and serve Dakshana as Fellows. Heading the team is commander Arun Mishra (chief administrative officer) with 20 years’ experience in the Indian Navy. He runs the Dakshana administration as a ship that is sailing smoothly towards success. All donations to Dakshana are exempt under Section 80-G of the Income-tax Act.
Kadus, Taluka Khed,