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On display, tales of triumph

A boy works the graveyard shift in a BPO so he can go to school the next morning while a girl gives tuition after school to pay for her education.

Rohan Rao and Naureen Akhtar could still squeeze out time and energy to help put up an excellent exhibition in their central Calcutta school on Tuesday.

Tenacity masked their everyday trial as they stood straight, and ready to explain, at the computer corner they had set up to showcase the research each one had done about the Internet.

Rohan, a Class XII student at St. Stephen’s School, Bowbazar, attends school till 4pm before rushing to the Rajarhat office of the BPO at 7pm. He returns home (on BB Ganguly Street) at 7am, sleeps for a couple of hours and reaches school at 10.30am. He has been going through this gruelling routine for the past three months without a grumble because he does not want to “burden his mother with his responsibilities”.

His mother is a school kitchen cook and his father died seven years ago.

Multi-tasking on a daily basis has boosted his confidence. As he fielded queries on the exhibit, he sounded more professional than amateurish for a schoolboy. “We researched on various aspects of Internet use such as Skype that connects people across the world through web calls, job search that can be done online or booking tickets online,” Rohan said.

Naureen of Class IX gets “entangled in the family problems some times”, obliquely referring to her jobless father who “is too lazy to work”. Her mother’s tailoring job fetches Rs 1,000 and Naureen contributes Rs 800 to the family pool, teaching three kids in the locality.

She returns home at 9pm, a schedule she has been following since Class V so she didn’t have to drop out of school.

Still, the house captain and president of the school’s Interact club gets time to study. “I study at night. In the morning, I help my mother do the hemming or stitch kurtas sometimes,” said the girl who wants to be a journalist.

Rohan too used to give tuition before he landed the BPO job. “My mother doesn’t approve of me working so young. But I keep telling her that it’s not just giving me money but I am also gaining experience,” he said.

Their school at 93 Phears Lane has been very supportive too. “We want to empower them and want to give them a global outlook. Besides training them in English we are giving them computer training,” said Imran Zaki, the school’s honorary secretary.

Mariam Khatoon, a student, agreed. “I did not know much beyond Urdu till I joined this school four years ago. Participating in school activities such as exhibitions is far more exciting than household chores,” she said. Mariam lives with her aunt and goes to school after completing the “chores”.

Ziniya Solanki of Class VIII displayed her charts on the human digestive system. She teaches her brothers in classes II, V and VI at home before revising her own lessons in their one-room house in Ratu Sarkar Lane.