Author – Ms. Anuradha Nirwan , Mahatma Gandhi National Fellow (MGNF) – IIM Lucknow, located at Kasganj district, Uttar Pradesh
Mentorship is an age-old concept in Indian History. The relationship between Guru and Shishya is one of the most revered relationships. There is no dearth of examples in Indian Mythologies and History where the relationship is acknowledged as the most contributing aspect in an individual’s life. In ancient India, Krishna and Arjuna, Ramakrishna Paramhansa and Vivekananda, Chanakya and Chandragupta have been the epitome of this kind of relationship. Till today these associations are quoted whenever Guru Shishya Parampara is talked about.
In this association, the mentee surrenders to the mentor to attain knowledge and guidance. The Mentor provides instruction guidance, considering the individual’s strengths, learning needs and abilities. However, in the Indian education system, this form of individual empowering exercise has not been explored at a mass level. In recent times, Edtech startups have been trying to incorporate the elements of mentorship in their education platforms and services. Thus, although our cultural heritage has survived, it has taken a modern shape through digital media.
Online Career Mentorship Program
So, with this intention, girls undergoing the skilling course of Uttar Pradesh Kaushal Vikas Mission were mobilized for this. A Bangalore-based partner organization named Mentor Together was onboarded for this. This organization specializes in formal youth mentoring and uses its technology-driven platform called Mentor to Go App. It provides a mentoring toolkit and uniquely designed sessions. A mentor is allocated to each one of them based on their educational background. According to the organization’s description of Work Readiness Skills, they define it as being able to find, acquire, and keep an appropriate job and manage transitions to new jobs as needed. It involves everything from knowing what jobs will suit you and how to find the right jobs to learning and becoming strong with skills like time management, decision-making, goal-setting, etc., that will help you manage challenges and perform effectively in your work life.
Being from a disadvantaged section of society and in Hindi Medium Education, it was challenging for the girls to solve the learning sessions. I helped them by conducting group activities where they helped each other, which gave them a peer learning environment. Mentee’s mentorship module includes sessions on value-based decision-making, mastering job interviews, values, and managing emotions.
Pertinent Challenges in Mentorship Initiatives
Throughout this journey, we realized that any online program with adolescent girls faces numerous challenges, such as,
- Unavailability of personal smartphones
- Dropping out due to marriage
- Engagement in household chores
- Handling judgments of the relatives due to association with the male mentor
- Rural challenges for online learning including electricity, phone recharge, farming and raising livestock above education
The girls who completed the program were driven by their self-belief attitude, curiosity to learn, highly supportive mentors, availability of cell phones, support from family, and a buddy network. If any of these factors need to be included, it results in staying in the program. The first two girls, Geeta and Neelam, who finished the entire journey, had an active and encouraging mentor who helped the mentees stay motivated and on their toes during the complete exercise.
Why is Mentoring Essential?
As said by one of the well-known spiritual personalities of India, “Guru is not someone who holds a torch. He is a Torch.”
- Mentoring has a broader purpose than merely offering career advice and counseling. It improves the mentee’s life skills. The initiative’s motto is to allow mentees to navigate their life and career decisions with the mentor’s guidance.
- While the school system offers subject teachers, it often falls short in providing formal mentoring. Introducing mentors to students at the right stage can help ease the intense competition driven by societal pressures, parental expectations, and peer pressure, particularly in pursuing careers such as engineering, medicine, or government jobs.
- The Western education system has addressed this issue and the role of mentors is recognized not just for the students but also for the working professionals. Mentoring Projects for fostering non-traditional Career Explorations, Mentoring Programs for at-risk youth for juvenile delinquency and medical illness, female to female mentorship in career development are some of the interventions on which extensive research has taken place.
Scope of Mentorship in NEP
The way NEP is envisioned involves a multidisciplinary approach. The role of the counselor will be necessary.
A mentoring approach will be required for the student to select the streams and vocation of his aptitude, interest and skill as NEP will be addressing 21st-century skills like building scientific temper, creativity, innovation, or critical thinking; the role of mentor will become crucial.
Apart from this, foreign universities will set up their campuses in India. Profile building for admissions will require assistance from the students. NEP states that the support of healthy older citizens, alumni, and community members will be garnered to address the need for mentoring, career counselling and tutoring. However, a clear roadmap and implementation strategy are needed for counseling and mentorship.
Impacting UN Sustainable Development Goals
Mentoring programs for girls would help achieve the UN’s sustainable development goals. The Sustainable Development Goal SDG 4 emphasizes quality education, and Mentoring exercise enhances learning efficacy. A few mentoring programs include open educational resources that enable access to education by reducing economic, cultural, social, and political barriers. Sustainable Development Goal 5 also addresses achieving Gender Equality and empowering all women and girls. The mentoring exercises at the grassroots level would promote gender equality, where basic human rights are also sometimes violated.
Also read: My Skill Odyssey in Aizawl: A Retrospect
However, mentoring alone won’t change the entire landscape of education and gender equality because doing it in isolation without connecting the participants to the right possibilities for education and employment won’t produce the desired results. Since it is the beginning of the realization of mentoring exercises, I would repeat the words of Neil Armstrong: “This is one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”. Similarly, addressing the mentoring needs of students is a visibly small step. However, it would enable the manifesting of giant dreams of mankind.
About the author
The author, Ms. Anuradha Nirwan is a Mahatma Gandhi National Fellow deployed in the district of Kasganj, Uttar Pradesh. This article reflects on her experience of initiating and executing an Online Career Mentorship Program for girls undergoing training in the UPSDM skill training center. Since this was her first intervention in the district, she learned about selecting a compatible mentoring organization, practical challenges, the need for mentoring exercises and their impact on the mentee.