Seeing the Digital Light

2nd March 2018

Somervillian Frances Varley (History, 2014) is championing a crowdfunding campaign by Somerville’s JCR to support digital education for girls in India.

The project is part of the work of Roshni, an all-female NGO in Chennai. Running until 16th April 2018, the crowdfunding campaign looks to raise £2,900 to buy and install six computers for Roshni Matriculation School.

Here, Frances tells us why Roshni’s work is so close to her heart.

What is Roshni?

‘Roshni’ signifies light and the organisation’s goal is to empower local women and children. As well as a highly successful micro-financing programme that has helped hundreds of women across Chennai, one of the most significant branches of the NGO is the Roshni Matriculation School just outside the city. Students who attend are predominantly first-generation school-goers and their parents are often daily-wage earners. The school offers a reduction in fees – up to 75% in some cases – to a large number of these pupils in order to help them gain an education.



How is Somerville involved?

The connection with Roshni was forged by Shruthi Manivannan (History, 2015).

It builds on Somerville’s longstanding links with India, on the work of the Oxford India Centre for Sustainable Development, and on the College’s proud history of empowering women. Last summer, eight Somerville undergraduates had the privilege of visiting Chennai to witness and contribute to Roshni’s efforts. We taught lessons in English and offered teaching beyond the standard curricula with a particular focus on developing students’ English language skills through teamwork and public speaking. Our experience was made all the more enjoyable by the women running the NGO, who welcomed us into their homes and looked after us during our two-week stay. We felt so lucky to be a part of Roshni’s work, and we hope that we communicated some of the independence of thought and joy in learning that we have all experienced at Somerville.



What is needed?

Roshni Matriculation School is a wonderful learning environment, with passionate teachers and pupils. But the school’s facilities don’t yet allow students to develop the IT skills that are vital to success in the 21st century, particularly within the rapidly growing Indian economy. At the moment the school only has one working computer, and computer science is taught entirely from textbooks. A number of the children aspire to be software engineers and to work in IT. We want to be able to provide the school with six new computers and two printers so that the students’ aspirations can be met through practical experience.



What can you do?

Read more about Roshni on our crowdfunding site, spread the word, and consider making a contribution:

All contributions are welcome and all donors will be kept updated on the project’s progress. Thank you.

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