- Medical student Abdus Salam cannot ask his family for money to cover his personal expenses; he earns it by working at blood donation camps
- lSanjoy Mondol is an exam away from becoming a commerce graduate, an education made possible by his part-time job as a catering boy
- lPabitra Kayal doesn’t get to enjoy weekends because he is busy giving private tuition to finance his engineering studies
- lAtasi Mondal had enrolled to study English literature but shifted to nursing so that she could quickly get a job and support her family
Tales of struggle and triumph such as these received a grand salute at the scholarship ceremony of The Telegraph School Awards for Excellence 2013 on February 1, an event where more than 200 students received scholarships and pledged to keep battling the odds.
Pabitra, currently in his second year at the Bengal Engineering and Science University (Besu), had almost given up studying after Madhyamik because his father’s sweet shop in Barrackpore did not fetch enough to feed the family as well as pay for his education.
He started giving tuition to Class X students on weekends, something he still does, and studied till the rooster’s call every day to crack the state joint entrance examination. A JEE rank of 381 (Scheduled Caste) got him a berth at Bengal Engineering and Science University (Besu).
“The Saturday-Sunday tuitions take care of a substantial portion of my education expenses,” Pabitra said of his earn-and-study grind.
Sanjoy, close to his BCom goal, has been working with a catering company to supplement his income. “It’s a seasonal job. I am mostly called during the wedding season and I earn around Rs 100 to Rs 200 for a day’s stint,” he said.
Abdus, a second-year student of Calcutta National Medical College and Hospital, is a regular at blood donation camps. The organisers pay him Rs 450 a stint for drawing blood from donors.
“I come from a joint family. My father is a farmer and my uncle works in a brick kiln. The scholarship takes care of my education and I do my bit to cover my personal expenses,” said Abdus, who aspires to specialise in neurology.
Atasi, who is from a Bankura village, wanted to study English literature after securing 84.2 per cent in Higher Secondary. She ended up doing a nursing course at Bankura Sammilani Medical College that would guarantee a livelihood once she completes the training.
“My father runs a tea shop and brings home Rs 1,500 a month. It’s a temporary shop outside a school. He earns nothing during school holidays. After HS, I had enrolled for English honours but switched to a nursing course,” the 18-year-old said.
Subhankar Bose’s father is a labourer in a village in Hooghly and earns around Rs 3,000 per month. The son, a Class XI student, passed Madhyamik with 90 per cent.
“Nothing but the challenges keep me going,” he said. “My mother tells me that since we are poor, we don’t have any other weapon to fight the odds. Education can be our only weapon to survive and win.”
Like him, Sangita Samanta is living the dreams of her father, a tailor with a monthly income of Rs 2,500. A Class XII student of science at Gopalpur High School in East Midnapore, she scored 93 per cent in Madhyamik. “My father is a school dropout… Class IV. But he keeps encouraging me to reach a level he could only dream of.”
The scholarship scheme that began in 1998 has gained momentum and magnitude.
Rudrangshu Mukherjee of The Telegraph Education Foundation put it in perspective: “It’s both our pride and, what we think, our social responsibility.”
“We want The Telegraph Education Foundation to create a sense of social responsibility in you. When you stand on your feet you would try to give back to society. You would not forget your past. There are many in our country who cannot afford education and we have to make efforts to reach out to them,” he said.
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