The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Teachers’ pet targets protector’s role
- Midnapore dropout, son of domestic help, sweeps class finals in city school

“I can’t go back to school… All of the boys and girls stay away from me because I don’t have clean clothes.” Bikash Sengupta dropped out of school after just a week, a few years ago, unable to endure the cruel taunts of his classmates. That was enough to prompt Maya, his mother, to take her two sons, leave their Midnapore home and head for the city. Class topper is all they can call Bikash now. After just a year of formal schooling, the 14-year-old created a mini-record of sorts, scoring over 90 per cent —with a 99 per cent in maths — in the Class III finals; the first student to do so at the Sussex Trust Model School, Watgunge, in years.

It was not easy for the family of three to survive in the city. Maya left Golakgram and her husband, who has another wife, and started working as a domestic help. At first, Bikash worked at a tea-stall. “He came home crying because they would verbally abuse him,” recalls Maya. He then tried his luck at a tea warehouse, but injured his hand. His mother then decided not to send him back to work.

One day, Bikash ran home with exciting news: A free school had started up at Watgunge thana. In August 2000, Bikash enrolled in Nabadisha, one of the non-formal teaching centres run by CRY, in collaboration with the Calcutta Police and Vikramshila. Though he had only a rudimentary knowledge of the alphabet and numbers, Bikash made rapid progress. “He was always very quick on the uptake. He took part in everything and was very good at drama, drawing and juggling,” smiles Manjula Das, his teacher at Nabadisha.

Within a year, Bikash gained admission to the local Corporation school, the Sussex Trust Model School. One academic year later, he topped class. “Bikash really wants to learn everything, and is very good at maths. He is a favourite student of all the teachers,” says Gobinda Tarafdar, head teacher at Sussex Trust, where Bikash’s brother, Bishal, 8, also studies.

“I want to be a policeman so I can capture all the cruel people here and all the people who attack our country… And I want to earn enough money to support my mother,” announces the lanky young boy, who spends close to 10 hours with books these days, besides taking care of his kid brother and standing by his mother. “I want him to study on till he stands on his own two feet,” says Maya, who now works in five homes to keep her sons in school.

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