India

Schools for Asia - Stories from the field

UNICEF
Arpita
UNICEF/India/Surnam
18 August 2020

A career portal presents girls with a world of possibilities

In the cold winter of Jaipur, the capital city of the state of Rajasthan, a group of young girls sat shivering – their teeth chattering – in the computer lab at a senior secondary government school. With just two computers, the girls encouraged each other to surf various pages of a website, each eager to read up and explore different links of the site. Arpita, a Class 12 student, clearly seemed to be the most skilled at manoeuvring the links, guiding her peers and leading them to exciting content on a portal called rajcareerportal.com.

Arpita is from a poor family of four, with her father the sole breadwinner, but she aspires to contribute to the household income. More importantly, she would like to have her own identity and be a productive member of society. One thing she has always been confident of is that education is the key to achieving her dreams, but at first she did not know how to gain the knowledge and skills she needed for self-development and to transition smoothly from school to work. Nor did her teachers have the requisite knowledge or information about current opportunities, schemes, and scholarships to guide her.

Then suddenly last year her teacher started to talk about an exciting new portal launched by the Rajasthan state government in partnership with UNICEF for senior secondary students, and one that they all should explore. Eagerly, Arpita learned that this new portal was opening up a whole world of possibilities to girls. Here was a ‘magical’ portal that could support her to choose a career path that matched her aspirations, interests, and aptitude, and through which she could also avail herself to scholarships, internships, and skill development programmes. .

Arpita was one of the first students to access the portal, which provided her with comprehensive information on possible careers, colleges, vocational institutions, entrance examinations, and scholarships – all in Hindi, her own language. It was dynamic, too, as every time she logged-in it gave her new, updated information. Her world was changing!

“I only saw women as teachers and doctors and that’s all I thought I could become. But through the portal I now see that there are many things I can be – I can be a banker, a designer, or a photographer.”

"I only saw women as teachers and doctors and that’s all I thought I could become. But through the portal I now see that there are many things I can be – I can be a banker, a designer, or a photographer."

Arpita, a Class 12 student in Jaipur, Rajasthan, India

The portal provided clear pathways, with links to growth trajectories, required qualifications, available colleges, entrance examination dates, and much more. Arpita soon zeroed in on achieving her dream of becoming a wildlife photographer for the National Geographic channel, which her geography teacher had once shown her during a lesson on wildlife. The problem, however, was that such study costs a lot of money, which her family could not afford. But just as she was about to give up, her teacher showed her another link to scholarships, keeping her dream alive. More determined than ever, her next step was to convince her father to let her pursue this unusal profession.

That was not an easy task. Being a girl, to go out alone and join a faraway college to pursue a career meant only for boys was simply unthinkable. It took her a few weeks of incessant pleading, getting her mother’s support, as well as getting her teacher to speak directly with her father, but he finally relented. Nonetheless, he had a valid question about the funds to support this wonderful dream.

Fully loaded with all the necessary information, Arpita explained the entire pathway to her chosen profession, showing him the availability of scholarships through which she could support her stay and education. In response, her father declared that he was proud of his daughter’s proactiveness and hard work in putting together this wealth of information.

With the motto, “If I can do it, so can my friends,” Arpita now supports her peers in surfing the portal, directing them to various career options and pathways, and linking them with scholarship options. She also shares the information with her younger sibling and neighbours. And in just a few months Arpita will be all set to join a photography college in Delhi.