Why Supporting First-Generation Learners Promotes Social Justice in India?

Social justice and educational reform have always been intertwined problems in India. However, the truth must be brought to light on occasion in order to raise global awareness about how supporting first-generation students can help to ensure social justice.

There is an underlying premise within the thought process that providing education is a reformist act due to the access and expansion of knowledge and additional benefits, such as employment and income security acquired through the job market and economy.

Aiding and abetting first-generation learners can help reduce barriers and create more opportunities for those who may not have had the same access to resources as others. All the first learners face challenges because they are unfamiliar with the educational system or simply due to cultural differences. No wonder that providing support and resources to them can help level the playing field. Besides that, assisting first-generation learners can help to promote diversity and inclusivity by letting students from underrepresented groups to succeed and reach their full potential.

Our modern education systems have aesthetic gaps that first-generation students fill. On the other hand, most first-generation learners suffer due to the dominant aesthetics in the classroom and universities. If you don’t find adequate evidence of it in the studies, then you should be ready to fund such study led by first-generation learners. We can work towards creating a more equitable society for all by promoting education for first-generation learners in culturally appropriate manner.

Given that the majority of first-generation learners come from historically oppressed groups, it is critical to comprehend what factors contribute to this significant number and its possible ramifications. Numerous factors can contribute to first-generation learners having a higher representation in historically oppressed groups. The impact of systemic oppression and historical discrimination on these groups is one major consideration.

The denial of access to education due to race, ethnicity, religion, or other factors has been the dark reality of the world not so many years before and in some countries, it is such a contemporary scene. Clearly, there are very few parents or other family members who have attended college or who can provide support and guidance throughout the educational process.

Many first-generation students come from low-income households or neighborhoods, which surely poses challenges to their chances to succeed in school. These students could experience difficulties such problems enrolling in high-quality schools, inability to move to cities, a lack of funds to cover tuition and other costs, and a lack of access to academic support services and other resources. The higher proportion of first-generation students from historically disadvantaged groups can be caused by a number of complicated circumstances and resolving these problems can help advance social justice and make chances more equitable for everyone.

The oppression of marginalized communities at all levels of the system makes the situation for first-generation learners in India more complicated. First-generation students’ circumstances in India might vary depending on a range of variables, including their financial status, caste, ethnicity, language, gender, geography, and access to resources. First-generation students in India, however, may encounter difficulties such restricted access to higher education, financial troubles, and cultural or societal expectations that may deter them from pursuing success.

Eklavya deals with a major chunk of students that do not know anything beyond primary schooling, leaving aside the challenging path of higher education. Most first-generation learners face cultural or societal and due to poverty, the familial pressure to prioritize work or other responsibilities over education. I have seen my classmates bunking classes to contribute to farming or work as a farm labor. As a landless, below poverty line first-generation learner I worked on non-farm activities and earned child’s wage which used to be very less than adult. Fortunately, my poor parents valued education and never let me remain absent from classes to contribute to the survival income. Well, that sincere determination could manifest something bigger, but that lived experience is evident of what first-generation learners have to go through.

The majority of first-generation students in India have been generational victims of caste-based oppression, preventing their ancestors from having access to educational resources and activities, making helping them a social justice action. Even after constitutional revisions were implemented, widespread disenfranchisement continued to have a harmful impact for generations. A sizable number of first-generation students are still in need of support in India and other parts of the world in order to complete their studies and find employment and productive life. Trust me, I am still keeping it to the income security making education a shallow instrument to access labor market opportunities. Not even highlighting the ‘creating learned and critically thinking citizens for advanced global democracies’ as a function of education.

 The caste and varna system in India has historically played a significant role in defining a person’s access to social, economic, and educational possibilities. Frozen class without social mobility as being called by even some spiritual masters. A social structure known as the caste system places people into particular social groups according on where they were born. In the past, discrimination and disadvantage have been lived by some castes. The modified caste system and surviving relics of the past systems in the current India poses a number of challenges for first-generation students. Students from the so-called lower castes frequently experience bias and discrimination in the educational system and have had trouble accessing quality schools or other development resources. Most first-generation learners are likely to be deterred from pursuing higher education or a particular field of study by the cultural and societal expectations connected to particular castes and caste-linked occupations. The struggle is that deep. 

To solve the problems of first-generation learners and offer fair educational opportunities hardly anything has been done in emerging India. In fact, there is not much awareness about it among philanthropists. Yes, the effective altruism inclined donors also are not turning towards this complex twofold cause of social justice-education. Come what may, first-generation students continue to be at the center of social justice when it comes to educational reforms. The varna and caste system’s effects on education and other aspects of human development in India are still a complicated, challenging, unaddressed adequately, and hence ongoing problem. Hence, Eklavya is remedial and equally strategic until social justice is manifested.

A batch of first generation learners preparing form premier university admissions at Eklavya Academy based in Yavatmal, Maharashtra (Image taken from social media of Eklavya)

Above text is inspired by the enduring discussions with Team Eklavya

-Author: Dr. Govind Dhaske

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