First Generation Education: Challenges and Opportunities Across South Asia

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The title for this panel discussion is ‘First Generation Education: Challenges and Opportunities across South Asia’. The session discusses the work of four initiatives in this context: Eklavya Movement (India), The Community Library Project (India), Charmaghz (Afghanistan) and Samaanta Foundation (Nepal). All four of these initiatives focus on first-generation learners.


Purnima Rao is a library activist, who works at The Community Library Project in New Delhi, India. She also steers the Free Libraries Network, which is a collective of over 95 free-library and reading spaces across India. She believes in the transformative power of books and free libraries and dreams of a world where caste, class, gender or religion cannot deny anyone the right to read. 

Raju Kendre is a first-generation learner who hails from the Nomadic Tribe community of Central India. His lived experience motivated him to start “Eklavya India”, an organisation working towards promoting higher education and enabling grassroots leadership of first-generation learners in Central India. He is currently studying MSc Development Studies at SOAS, University of London, on the Chevening Scholarship offered by the FCDO, UK. Recently, Raju also featured in Forbes India’s 30 Under 30 list for 2022.

Freshta Karim is a child rights activist. She founded Charmaghz, a Kabul-based NGO dedicated to promoting critical thinking among children through providing resources and space on buses turned to mobile libraries. She completed her Master of Public Policy from the University of Oxford and undergraduate from the Punjab University, India. She has also been featured on the recent Forbes 30 under 30 list. 

Dr Shrochis Karki is the Executive Director of Samaanta Foundation, a not-for-profit organisation that provides comprehensive higher education fellowships to meritorious public-school graduates from disadvantaged backgrounds in Nepal. He also heads the Research, Impact, and Learning team at UnLtd, a UK charity that finds, funds, and supports social entrepreneurs. He is passionate about social justice and has worked internationally on education systems, organisational development, and policy reform issues.