The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Bravehearts walk away with awards & applause
- war against student load, push for peace at school show

Calcutta, Sept. 6: A headmaster without the use of his legs, a young girl who aced her exams from a stretcher, a man who scaled Everest having lost five fingers, another who swam the English Channel, not missing the legs he lost in a train accident…

True stories of true warriors. A “triumph of spirit” was on display this morning, at The Telegraph School Awards for Excellence, in association with Khadim’s. The ceremony, which recognises the efforts of students, teachers and parents, in its seventh edition, brought to the fore people from across the state who embody the fight for a better future through education.

An “extraordinary spectacle” is how former Union finance minister Manmohan Singh, attending the Science City event as chief guest, termed the ceremony. Courage rubbed shoulders with excellence, as students, educators and guardians took to the stage to warm applause having braved adversity, poverty and physical challenges.

Three such youths shared the stage for the Surrendra Paul Memorial Award for Courage. Two of the bravehearts were presenters. One — Temba Tsheri Sherpa — had come to the School Awards three years ago at age 15, just after he had to abandon his quest to conquer Everest metres from the top, having lost five fingers to frostbite. Today, he returned, having scaled the highest height, to hand over the courage award once again.

This time, he had beside him another warrior, swimmer Masud-ur-Rehman Baidya on crutches. Together, they saluted Ipsita Banerjee of Gokhale Memorial Girls High School, who secured a healthy first division in both the Madhyamik and Higher Secondary examinations, after falling five floors from a terrace and undergoing 19 critical operations. She wrote the exams from a stretcher.

Never say die is the ethic that Manoj Ghosh, retired headmaster, embodied for 31 years. He lost the use of his legs to childhood meningitis. But that didn’t stop Ghosh from making it to Chandanpur Prathamik Vidyalaya every day, on time. For his dedication, he was given the Dr Mrs .B. ’Brien Lifetime Achievement Award for a Teacher.

Parents received a round of applause as well, the Abhirup Bhadra Memorial Thank You Baba-Ma Award being shared by the parents of two physically challenged children.

A peace movement which started last year at the Awards continued, with La Martiniere boy Shovik Banerjee and host Barry ’Brien relating their experiences of a trip they made to Pakistan this January. The effort will carry on, with a delegation of 40 students planning another visit this year, led by Shukla Bandopadhyay, a schoolteacher who lost her son to a bullet in Kashmir.

If peace was a byword, pressure was a watchword. “Are we putting too much pressure on our children'” was the theme for 2003. With the schoolbag weighing the student down and suicide rates rising alarmingly, educators and parents were implored to lighten the academic load.


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