The Power of a Dream

Spring 2017 As Seen in Our Spring 2017 Issue
The Power of a Dream

Online applications in rural India increase educational opportunities for girls

We generally don’t think twice about it—most things we may want are just a click away. Need to renew your auto insurance? Click here. Want to apply for that postgraduate program? Click here.

Such ease, however, is not the reality for many people living in rural or remote areas around the world.

As a girl growing up in a farming village in eastern India, Dibyashree Behara, daughter of a farmer and homemaker, dreamed of becoming a nurse to help her community, but she faced significant obstacles.

Behara’s parents wished for her and their two other children what they could not achieve themselves—an education and a profession. Until recently, with the initiative of an online admission process, the possibility of making that dream a reality was daunting.

At 18, with an uncle’s encouragement and support and the Internet, Behara was able to apply to a nursing school in Berhampur, some 250 miles away, through a computer at a shop in her village in the state of Odisha.

For a teenager with limited means living in a remote village, an online application process cleared several hurdles to achieving her dream. “Every student doesn’t have great economic power to undertake the cost of travel again and again [to properly submit her application]. The online admission process saved a lot of trouble for me and my family,” she says.

After a few more steps and a trip later to a state processing center, Behara learned that she had been accepted to the 2016 fall class at the school in Berhampur. She is one of over 6,700 students admitted to general nursing schools through an online process developed for the government of Odisha with Jhpiego’s technical assistance. More than 50,000 students applied online, a milestone in the government’s efforts to expand educational opportunities for girls in remote areas.

“I am really grateful to have got the chance to get into this profession,” Behara says. “I want to do everything in my capacity to be of help and make valuable use of my education to help my community and my family in the future. We are studying the fundamentals of nursing and I love it!”L.R. Mishra, former director of nursing for the Government of Odisha, says the online process led to a more diverse applicant pool and, he hopes, greater placement of nurses in locations with few health care providers. “There was an exceptional increase in the number of applications received from tribal areas and this will ensure retention of a nursing-midwifery workforce at these hard-to-reach areas, once these students join the health services,” he says, adding, “Nurses are the pillars of the health care delivery system.”

Other girls may now follow in Behara’s footsteps—it starts with a dream and a “Click here.”With an uncle’s encouragement and the Internet’s help, a dream is realized.Jhpiego’s Rashmi Kochuveetil, Manaswini Biswal, and Alisha Horowitz also contributed to this article.

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