The ECSP Scholarship Programme in Tamil Nadu, India

The ECSP was established in 2014 to identify and enable gifted young female students to pursue higher academic studies at universities. 

For the academic year 2014-2015, the first recipient of the new scholarship was a 16yrs old student attending St Joseph’s Higher Sec. School in Kovalam. St Joseph’s was the first school in Tamil Nadu to be supported by the Foundation. 

Shabana Asmin is the eldest child from loving, supportive and encouraging parents. The father is a Tailor and the mother, a housewife. She comes from a strict background and had never even been allowed to go to the cinema to watch a film. Her only opportunity to see the rest of the world was through watching television in the Tamil language. No member of the family historically, had ever attained any further education.

After scoring the highest regional marks for the 10th standard government school examinations, the Foundation met with the young Shabana to explore what her future options could be and how the Foundation would support those choices.

From an early age, she had been fascinated by Space and wanted to study Aeronautical Engineering, an independent choice for a young girl to select over the traditional female career studies usually chosen in India.  She was very aware of how much a university place would change her life and her parents. Her father expressed what an enormous difference it would be in all their lives as they would never have been able to send her to any higher studies themselves, as the financial burden would simply be too great.

Shabana achieved the required results and passed the entrance exam to enter the prestigious Sathyabama University in 2015 as an undergraduate, on a 4yrs. Aeronautical Engineering Degree course, sponsored and supported by the Cuomo Foundation.

Her first year as a university student was extremely challenging both academically, socially and emotionally. It was an enormous shift to leave a small provincial school and home life primarily conducted in Tamil and enter a large sophisticated predominantly English-speaking University. Although Shabana was taught in English medium at school the reality of all study courses being conducted in English at University was very different. As the only student from her school accepted to the University she also struggled to socially engage. Her family and the Foundation together supported her through this challenging transition and Shabana’s spirit strengthened her resolve to overcome these hurdles and succeed.

Now, at the end of 2018, Shabana is in her last Semester and will take her Finals exam in January to graduate in June 2019. Throughout her 4-year course she has remained focussed and determined. She is fluent in English and intellectually and socially engaged with all aspects of University life. In addition, along this exciting journey, she has married and is expecting a baby in March of next year.

It is truly amazing that the first ECSP recipient has travelled so far, so successfully. Her undergraduate degree results will be announced late May/early June,2019.

Before she announced her pregnancy, she stated she was determined to continue her studies with a Masters, attending another university in Tamil Nadu.

However, the Foundation latest talks with her now make it clear she has moved on from those plans and has even more ambitious plans for her own future.

She wants to take her Masters in ‘Aerospace Engineering’ in Canada and is currently looking at Carleton University in Ottawa.

She plans to take her IELTS (International English Language Testing System) and GRE (Graduate Record Exam) exams next year as required for all foreign students.

She will take just under a year to prepare for these exams and to enable her to feed her baby. She plans to apply for courses in November 2019 for entry in Jan 2020.

It is a 2-year Masters course. If she gains entry and meets all the requirements, she will apply for a 5yrs Visa with the right to remain and apply for jobs for 3yrs. after Masters course in Canada.

These are ambitious thoughts, of an exciting future, for a young Indian female from such humble simple beginnings at St Joseph’s Higher Sec. School in Kovalam…

The Foundation is proud that they have given wings for this little bird to fly… and fly higher.