In formal education, the school-leaving exam is the first big test that students have to overcome. Most triumph, whatever the marks, some don’t. In the triumphs, however, and even in the failures, there hide stories of courageous struggles in situations of extreme hardship. Mostly it has to do with financial adversity. Students who overcome these and get good grades are real heroes. Some of these students we read about and see on television, many we don’t know of. Here we present stories of some of these young boys and girls who passed their school-leaving exams, some with glorious marks, in spite of so much stacked against them.
The son of a day-wage labourer, Gagan scored 92.14% in Madhyamik, passing out from Majidkhana Higher Secondary School, near Alipurduar. His thatched house at Uttar Majidkhana village has no electricity. Gagan studied under a kerosene lamp till his eyes watered.
“Our family has four members — father, mother and younger brother who studies in Class IV make up the other three — and we all stay in the same room. I had three tutors and they, as well as my schoolteachers, helped me a lot. Without their help, I wouldn’t have got good marks,” Gagan said in an interview.
Gagan’s father Provash Pal works in a tea stall and makes Rs 100-150 a day. The family’s poor financial condition did pose odds before the boy, but he took them in his stride.
The boy wants to become a doctor and work in his village, which has no medical service available. But father Provash wants the son to study humanities as studying science could prove costly. “I know my son wants to become a doctor. But our financial condition doesn’t permit it. So, I want him to study arts in Plus II,” Provash said.
We hope people come forward so that he can realise his dream of becoming a doctor.
Her limbs are weak and small. She can’t hold a pen, sit up or walk. But Tiyasha Mahaldar of Nadia’s Shantipur scored 74.7% from Radharani Nari Shiksha Mandir in Shantipur, a feat that made her parents, teachers, classmates and her doctor ‘salute’ her. “When Tiyasha was one year old, we realised that her limbs were not growing normally. We took her to several doctors but were told there was hardly any treatment for her. It was not easy for us to bring up a special child like her. People avoided us but we never lost hope. Today, Tiyasha has shown immense mental strength. We salute her.”
The 16-year-old student suffers from phocomelia – a congenital disorder that leads to malformation of limbs. She is less than 3 ft tall and writes clutching the pen with both hands.
Tiyasha has a younger brother who studies in Class VII. Mother Supriya, a homemaker, praised the teachers for contributing to the success of Tiyasha and for cooperating with the family.
Tiyash’s friends and teachers were all praise for her courage to carry on with her studies despite having to take prolonged leaves because of health problems. Tiyasha, who wants to become a teacher, said: “I will take up arts and complete my MA. I wanted to study science, but I will not be able to attend practical classes in the laboratory.”
Tapas Prasad, a visually impaired student of Siliguri’s Nilnalini Vidya Mandir, is happy that he has been able to fulfil his father’s dream by securing first division. The 17-year-old lost his mother when he was just three years old and has been raised by his father, Sarvan Prasad, and grandmother Bhagirathi.
“I am the only child and my father is a mason. He has been looking after me with the help of my grandmother since my mother died. He always wanted me to secure good marks. Today, I feel really happy that I have fulfilled his dream by scoring 430 (out of 700) in Madhyamik,” said Tapas.
Although his home is near Sevoke Road on the outskirts of Siliguri, Tapas got enrolled in Prerana Educational Centre, an education and rehabilitation centre for children with disabilities, at Salugara in 2003 where he studied till Class VI.
He joined Nilnalini Vidya Mandir in Class VII. Tapas recounts that while preparing for Madhyamik, he had great difficulty practising math as he is visually impaired. However, his teachers constantly guided him. For the other subjects, he says he studied with the help of Braille books and by listening to recordings of different lessons.
As his favourite subject is history, Tapas wants to be a history teacher some day.
Paritosh Barik, son of a domestic working in the upscale Salt Lake, scored a stunning 90% in this year's Madhyamik examination. Despite his hardships and poverty, Paritosh has scored 96/100 in Maths, 94/100 in Physical Science, 80/100 in English and his aggregate is 920/1,000.
Paritosh was left to study in their native Basudebpur village in East Midnapore, because Sumu was too poor to support him. A topper throughout at the Sialsahi Sripatinath School, Paritosh kept up his record to emerge as the highest scorer in his school in the Madhyamik examination.
He sits at an Ekbalpore intersection each day, selling flowers. To passers-by, he is one among the many anonymous young faces toiling on the streets. To his mother, he is a dreamer, a doer, her beacon in the darkness of struggle.
Apurba Rana, 15, scored 84.1% in Madhyamik this year, a performance partly made possible by his determination not to miss going to school despite having to work every morning and evening.
The teenager had started helping out his mother at the stall after his father died in October 2012, leaving him to juggle work and school every day from dawn to dusk. On weekdays, he would be at the intersection of BK Road and Karl Marx Sarani at 8.30 in the morning to sell flowers for a couple of hours before heading for classes at Kiddirpore Academy. He would be back at the stall at 4.30pm and be there till evening.
Mother and son make Rs 2,500-3,000 a month, which is barely enough to buy them food. The duo live in a dingy one-room house. The entrance to the room is always wet because of leaking water pipes. “How long can we live in this dirt and filth, cooped up in a one-room house? I have to come out of this place and give a decent life to my mother and myself,” he said in an interview.
The bleak surroundings and the daily struggle only steel Apurba’s resolve to work harder. He is keen to study science so that he can get into an engineering college. He has enrolled for coaching with his scholarship money but getting into a good Higher Secondary institution would be a bigger financial challenge. “He has collected forms from Jodhpur Park Boys School and New Alipore Multipurpose School. But I am worried about whether I will be able to afford his admission fees,” mother Pinky said.
Apurba Raha at his flower stall
Wishing for a bright future
This is almost a drop in the ocean; such stories abound, and not just in the state but all over the country. It becomes the duty of the government as well as NGOs and other financial aid organisations to see to it that those who sacrifice so much and endure such hardships do not lose their way just because they do not have money, but achieve their dreams.