The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Life’s savings given to school

Katwa, Sept. 5: For 60 years, a high school just 180 km from Calcutta has been holding its classes within walls made of mud and under a thatched roof.

By the time India celebrates 60 years of Independence next year, Kumarpur High School at Mangalkot in Burdwan should have a building because a retired engineer who has come back to settle in his village gave the school Rs 1 lakh on Teachers’ Day today.

It’s not quite like Vinod Gupta, the IIT Kharagpur alumnus now based in the US, giving his alma mater $1 million to start an eponymous management school. But seeing students — mostly farmers’ sons — caress the two computers Dilip Roy has gifted to the Kumarpur school, it’s hard to judge which is the greater contribution.

Between Gupta, a successful businessman in the US, and Roy, who retired as a PWD engineer in 1997 to spend the rest of his life in his ancestral village, there is a continent of difference.

“I stay alone. My cousins and other young relatives left the village long ago to settle in Calcutta and other places,” Roy, who is also secretary of the school managing committee, said.

The school was built in 1946 with donations from villagers. The first school in the area started with only 50 students — 450 now — in four thatched and mud-walled classrooms that exist till today.

Sarva Siksha Abhiyan, the central mission for universal education, spends hundreds of crores, but Kumarpur High School hasn’t seen any of this money, though it was to have received Rs 1.5 lakh. “Over the past two years, all the neighbouring high and higher secondary schools received the fund, but we did not,” said headmaster Arun Saha.

“It is Dilipbabu who came to help us. We are proud that we will soon have a building,” Saha added.

The school, which during the rains is often forced to suspend classes because of leaky roofs, expects to begin construction next month.

Roy, the son of a high school teacher who did not however study at Kumarpur, said before he handed over the cheque: “What will I do with my ancestral property' I will try to help poor students of my village who can’t afford to study in schools in Calcutta or Durgapur or Burdwan towns.”

Kumarpur represents what’s happening in Bengal but lacks the wherewithal to keep pace. Says Bablu Mudi, a farmer whose son Chanchal is a student at the school: “It’s time for industrialisation. We don’t want our children to become farmers. We request Roybabu to build a college in the village.”

President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam today gave away awards to 313 teachers and made them vow: “Teaching will be my soul. Teaching will be my life’s mission.”

Roy will never stand in the ranks of award-winning teachers because he’s not one himself. Which may be just as well because the vow would have sounded odd to his ears. Soul is hard to offer, he has given his life’s savings.

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