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Small steps for a giant leap

- 1st leg of The Telegraph school awards ’12

His father sells old books and mother rolls bidis, and the family income barely adds up to Rs 2,000, but 17-year-old Shuvankar Sinha is a promising first-year student of physics in Jadavpur University with dreams of being a professor. “My father is a BSc graduate from Bongaon College but financial constraints compelled him to take up odd jobs,” said Shuvankar, who scored 89.6 per cent (physics 97, chemistry 90, math 96 and biology 98) in Higher Secondary.

Himadri Shekhar Bera ranked 64 in engineering and 23 in medical in the West Bengal Joint Entrance Examination (WBJEE), and chose medical. Son of a pathology lab technician in Domjur, Howrah, earning Rs 3,000, Himadri is now a first-year-student of Calcutta Medical College and Hospital, who would rather not highlight his struggle. “At least I could get an opportunity to study in a medical college, so many others do not....”

Taking Shuvankar and Himadri and many like them a step closer to their goal is the Techno India Group presents The Telegraph School Awards for Excellence 2012, in association with Parle-G.

Shuvankar received the Sujata Chaudhuri Memorial Scholarship and Himadri the Mayukh Mitter Memorial Scholarship on Saturday at the Vidya Mandir auditorium filled with an admiring audience that broke into applause at every tale of triumph against all odds. As Sukanta Chaudhuri, the chairman of The Telegraph Education Foundation, had earlier remarked: “I don’t come to these awards to speak but to see and above all to listen.” He went on to add that “we have to build up our strength and our resources so that we can do just that little bit more for education in the state”.

The finale of the 17th edition of The Telegraph School Awards for Excellence is scheduled for September 8 at the Science City auditorium and Barry O’ Brien, the convener of the awards, urged even those who perhaps will not receive anything to come to receive what is “intangible in some ways: inspiration, motivation....”

“If you are a student and you are a topper but if you have got everything you need to be a topper, come there and be inspired by toppers who don’t have everything that is needed to top... sometimes not even electricity or three square meals.”

O’ Brien was perhaps talking of the likes of Kakali Biswas, whose father is a van-rickshaw puller and who walked away with The Telegraph Education Foundation Scholarship, scoring 81 per cent in Madhyamik. “There have been days when we did not have any food at home and we would go to sleep on an empty stomach.”

There were others like Titi Nandi who scored 83.2 per cent in Higher Secondary from her village Mohisanandi in Bankura. “There was no proper Higher Secondary school in our village so I travelled to the neighbouring village everyday and I had to come to Calcutta to study science. At every step there was the fear of having to discontinue studies,” said the first-year student of math whose father barely manages Rs 2,000 every month.

The Awards also salutes toppers like Biplab Mondal, who attends classes in the morning at South Calcutta Law College and works in a bookshop in the department of law, Calcutta University, Hazra campus, from 11am to 5pm. “I get to handle law books and the shopowners have promised to provide me with books for the entire tenure of my study. I also get Rs 1,000, which takes care of my personal expenses. My father is 62 and it is difficult for him to work in the field for Rs 1,500 a month,” said the boy who also walked away with The Telegraph Education Foundation Scholarship.

The awards saluted Saugata Rishi Ganguly who suffers from haemophilia, a disorder that impairs the body’s ability to control blood clotting or coagulation, and many others. They received the Surrendra Paul Memorial Award for Courage.

“Even a small injury on the football field would take days to heal and that took me away from all kinds of sporting activity. When I was young and would see my peers on the field, I would feel depressed,” said Saugata, the Class XII student of St. Patrick’s Higher Secondary School, Asansol. “But gradually I focused on reading, writing and I was good at it, and now I realise that not everybody is cut out for everything,” said the teen who scored 89.6 per cent in Class X despite missing eight months of school.

Then there were those who have benefited from the award, like Laljit and Lokenath Das, sons of a cobbler who had resolved to give his children an education despite his meagre means. Ever since The Telegraph Education Foundation stood by them in 2004, both have completed their masters in geography and are now schoolteachers, and both have promised to contribute to the Foundation in their own way.

No wonder O’ Brien championed the cause of commitment. “Just give yourself a commitment… in your own way, in your own para, in your own village, in your own district, in your own locality if you could start something which has the same maqsad or the same aim, that will be our achievement…if you can have little award ceremonies, scholarship-giving ceremonies, then will the movement grow and we will feel very, very fulfilled.”

Do you know of any student/teacher who is battling the odds to achieve excellence? Tell ttmetro@abpmail.com