We have read about the Madhyamik and Higher Secondary toppers, their accolades and their plans to pursue successful careers in fancy institutions. However, we must also spare a thought for students who gave the same examination and excelled despite their social and economic limitations. Some of them come from backgrounds where they struggled to support their families, had very hard living conditions, and made a lot of sacrifices and difficult choices to complete their studies, some even with with good scores.
These are just some of the many students whose stories are an inspiration to anyone who dares to dream.
Lipika, a student of arts, secured 90% marks in the Higher Secondary examination. Her father Kartik sells tea at the Siliguri Regulated Market. Lipika did not have a single tutor. Her mother Anita is mostly in bed because of persistent orthopaedic problems. “After helping her mother with the household work, she would make paper bags at her house,” said Animesh Mukherjee, headmaster of Vivekananda Vidyalaya, where Lipika studied.
Ananda’s father is a daily wage labourer and his mother a domestic help, but they both want him to be a teacher someday. He has topped Baradakanta Vidyapith in Siliguri in Higher Secondary in the arts stream with 84.8%. “I have an elder sister who got married few years ago. We have a lot of financial constraints but my parents have never compromised with my studies. They have provided me with books and stationery whenever I have asked for. Their happiness knew no bounds when I told them that I topped,” he said. Ananda wants to tutor students to fund his college education.
Kakoli secured 85.6% in her Higher Secondary examination from Sunitibala Sara Girls’ High School in Jalpaiguri. Her father, Anil is a priest and earns around Rs 3,000 a month. Her mother Sima is a housewife. The family stays in Sebagram area of Jalpaiguri town. “My father somehow manages to arrange two square meals for three of us. His earning is not regular. There was no question of taking private tuitions. I studied in the arts stream and was helped by a private tutor who stays in my locality,” Kakoli said. The student had to bank on old textbooks collected from her seniors. “I had applied for Kanyashree last year and got Rs 500. I am hopeful that I would get the assistance this year also,” Kakoli said.
The son of a contractual labourer, Debabrata Dakua had to do his bit to supplement the family income by growing vegetables in their backyard. "We have a small plot at the back of our house where we grow vegetables. Because my father works in the field I try to ease his load by tending to the vegetables," said Debabrata. Hard-pressed though he was to find time for studies, the 18-year-old from Krishnachandrapur High School in South 24-Parganas has scored 85.8% in the Higher Secondary examination and wants to study in a college in Kolkata.
With six students to tutor, Ratna had to stay up past midnight to study. She topped her school, Nilnalini Vidyamandir in Siliguri, with 85.6% in Higher Secondary. A resident of Ektiasal on the outskirts of Siliguri, Ratna’s father sells fish and mother works as a help. She has a younger brother who works in a furniture factory, an aunt who is mentally disturbed and an aged grandmother at home.“I did not want to burden my parents with expenses related to my education and I started giving tuitions since I was in Class IX. Now, I teach six students and with that money I buy books and pay for my own tuitions,” said Ratna. She wants to take up history or geography in college and become a teacher.
Sandip’s father suffers from kidney problems; they live in a mud house, and he at times looks out for odd jobs to earn some money. After his examinations got over, he worked in a factory packing pens. Despite the circumstances, Sandip scored 77% in his Higher Secondary examination, which he gave from Fatehpur Sreenath Institution in Falta. “I want to study political science or pursue law,” the resident of Ramaswarbati village said.
Her father sells vegetables in Kolkata, one of her uncles is a contractual labourer and another works in a medicine shop. Sajani Kundu made all of them proud by scoring 88.2% in Higher Secondary. The family of seven (Sajani's parents, siblings and uncles) lives in a two-room house at Benapur village in Falta. "It wasn't possible for my father to bear the expenses of my studies alone. My uncles always chipped in," said the 17-year-old from Fatehpur Sreenath Institution, who wants to become a doctor. Her mother had studied till Madhyamik and her father till Class VIII; both egged her on to keep going.
A problem in the retina forced Subham Chatterjee’s father to give up his job of an assistant accountant in a private firm in Kolkata, but he continued with his studies with help from relatives and scored 75.6 % in Higher Secondary from Shyamnagar Kanti Chandra High School in Shyamnagar, North 24-Parganas district. The 18-year-old wants to study zoology honours at a Calcutta University college.
She had to quit studies after Madhyamik and take up an eight-hour job in a factory to make ends meet. But Amilya Periera was determined to return to school. A year-and-a-half on, she cleared the Higher Secondary examination from Loreto Day School in Sealdah with 71.4%. Her father is a labourer in a factory in Thakurpukur. Amilya said it was Sister Cyril's push that made her come back. "She sent teachers to my house who insisted that I return to school. And I always wanted to," said Amilya. After collecting her marksheet on Friday, Amilya headed for a BPO in Park Circus where she works for five hours every day to make sure her and her brother's education doesn't end in a hurry.
Samir Mondal is a district chess champion, he writes with his legs and he has scored 83.4% in Higher Secondary from Debnagar Mokshada Dinda Higher Secondary School in Namkhana. He lost his right hand when he was in Class IV. “I had taken out cows for grazing and had climbed a lamp post. I received an electrical shock and my right hand had to be amputated,” he said. Samir started writing with his leg to honour his mother’s request and soon became adept at it. The resident of Madsudanpur village in South 24-Parganas district, Samir wants to be a teacher. The headmaster of his school congratulated him not only for his courage and resilience but also for his oratory skills.
Jailbirds on a high
Every year, jail inmates in West Bengal interested in studies write their board exams too. This year, the 30 who gave their Madhyamik examinations have done very well. All the 30 inmates, including four women, three women from Kolkata’s Alipore Women’s Correctional Home and one from Jalpaiguri Central Correctional Home, emerged successful. Malti Rajbhar, a woman inmate from Jalpaiguri Central Correctional Home, secured over 67%."While the credit should go to the students for their labour, it is also a result of the support structure that has been built for the inmates to educate themselves," Additional Director-General (Correctional Services), Adhir Sharma said.
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