New Delhi: Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard Tuesday announced that her country will offer scholarships worth Rs.16.50 lakh in an effort to help the students from a slum pursue higher education in India.

Gillard, who is here on a three-day visit, made the announcement while launching an internship programme of a Delhi-based NGO, Asha.

Congratulating Asha's initiative which works for rehabilitation of slum dwellers in various colonies of the national capital, Gillard announced a 30,000 Australian dollars (Rs.16.50 lakh) contribution for Asha's 'higher education programme' to provide scholarships for college and university students.

"In five short years, Asha has helped over 700 students into university. Australia's support will ensure the number of slum children attending university and college continues to grow," Kiran Martin, founder and director of Asha said.

According to the NGO, the internship programme adds an extra dimension to Asha's pioneering 'higher education programme' which started as the first organised effort to enable slum children attend university.

"These bright students have overcome enormous challenges to make it to college. The Asha internship programme equips them with skills and confidence to take the next step into the competitive job market. Asha has been overwhelmed by the support for this innovative programme," Martin said.

Divaker Thakur, a business student, who interned with the Macquarie Group and Rio Tinto and has since been employed as a marketing executive, said: "The internship has been a dream come true. I could never have imagined I would work in such high profile multinationals.

I gained confidence and invaluable skills that helped me obtain a terrific job."Gillard, who arrived on Monday, earlier visited India as deputy prime minister and education minister to deal with the tensions over violence against Indian students in Melbourne some years ago.


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