Last year, the Veerni Institute received 209 applications for seven vacancies.
That’s because the school is a safe house for child brides in India, a country that has an estimated 240 million child brides, or one-third of the world’s child bride population, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund.
Many of these girls are married off well before the legal age of 18; some are as young as nine or 10. But they’re not sent to their in-laws’ residence until 15 or 16. Even then, they usually don’t attend school in the interim years while they’re still at home.
“We have found a loophole in the system,” says Mahendra Sharma, the director of the Veerni Institute. The gap he’s referring to is the lack of a secondary education for young women who have been married. “We firmly believe that it is of prime importance for all girls to complete senior secondary education in class 12.”
The Veerni Institute is set up as a boarding school, offering not only a place to stay but also health care, daily meals, uniforms, books, computer training, and access to sports. The annual cost for each girl is $1,560. However, the girls attend for free, because the fees are covered by the school’s philanthropic partners: the Global Foundation for Humanity in the U.S. and the Association du Projet Veerni in Switzerland.
Read the full story at TakePart.com.