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Deepali gains a place at JNU to study languages
This is another first for Project Mala. We have many very bright students graduating each year from Project Mala schools. Whilst many of them are achieving high grades and places in prestigious institutions, it is still the norm for children in rural India to set their sights on a fairly narrow range of careers and few of them look beyond those highly prized routes into engineering or medicine. While there are changes afoot to broaden the range of subjects studied in senior school, the majority of bright pupils still focus on science. An increasing number are now recognising the potential for success in commerce, but the humanities are still not valued or considered useful as a course of study for able students.
Deepali joined Project Mala in primary school in 2011 and it was immediately apparent that she was particularly talented. Deepali excelled academically, achieving top marks in science and maths and always appearing among the top students in exams. She also excelled at sport and has great artistic ability. It was her personal qualities, however, that really set her apart from other girls of her age.

Among her peer group of earnest, ambitious, hardworking yet somewhat single-minded classmates, Deepali has always stood out as someone quite exceptional. Any foreign visitor to Project Mala schools may have been greeted by her and engaged in lively conversation in fluent English. She is immensely curious about the world and loves to find out about other countries and ways of looking at life. Deepali is an emotionally mature child, beyond her years and has a desire to communicate. She longs to travel and to experience something of life outside the narrow confines of what is still a traditional, conservative and, for women especially, restrictive society.
When two visiting postgraduate students came to Guria school from Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) in Delhi, Deepali was eager to learn about courses of study there. From them she learned that JNU, while essentially a postgraduate university, is also the most prestigious university for undergraduate foreign language courses in India. Some students graduating from JNU have pursued careers as translators and interpreters in multi-national companies, in tourism, in government jobs as well as in academia.
We encouraged Deepali to start to work towards the very competitive entrance exam for JNU, and in the meantime she took admission to university in Varanasi to study science. The entrance exams for JNU are designed to test for a student’s potential to study language at a high level. There are papers in general knowledge, artificial language, general English, and language aptitude and all applicants for the BA in Language take the same entrance exam, regardless of the language they hope to study.
Deepali sat the exam in July and the results were announced at the end of November. To our delight we learned that she has been given a place to study Korean, her first choice of language. Deepali is the first of our pupils to study at JNU, and the first to take language as an undergraduate course. She is taking a big step and the world is opening up before her. I feel certain that this curious, enthusiastic, brilliant girl is going places!
Written by Anne Gilmour BA PGCE DipSpLD
Teaching Advisor and Trustee
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Robin Garland MBE
Project Mala
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