Deepa Rai prepares momos at her shop in Santlabari near Alipurduar on Wednesday. Picture by Anirban Choudhury
Alipurduar, May 21: A 17-year-old girl from Santlabari near here, who sells momos to earn a living, and travels 37km every day to reach her school, has scored 66 per cent in Class X CBSE exam — the highest ever score by a student from the area.
Deepa Rai is now worried as she cannot afford to pay the fees for for further studies. “The major hurdle for me now is that is my father is not ready to allow me to continue my studies because of poverty,” she said.
Four other students Rabi Lama, Anup Chhetry, Swarup Mongar and Biki Lama, from Santlabari have also passed their Class X board exams. They are all from Little Flower School in Alipurduar. The higher secondary school has not taken any tuition or bus fees from them as they come from lower income families. The fees for the school is Rs 1,000 a month.
Santlabari has only one school, AGOP Academy, which is run by a private trust which charges Rs 50 a month from students and provides education till Class VIII.
Deepa and the four boys from Santlabari in Jalpaiguri district, around 30km from here, leave their home at 6.30am everyday to go to school. They walk at least 5km to reach Jayanti More through the Buxa Tiger Reserve and then take an autorickshaw upto Rajabhatkhawa.
From Rajabhatkhawa the students take another auto rickshaw to reach Damanpur in Alipurduar town. From there, the school bus takes them to the institution. They take the same route to come back home.
“We attend school after facing a lot of hardships every day as we stay in a remote area where there is no transport. Many times when we are coming back home in an auto rickshaw through Buxa Tiger Reserve, our vehicle has to stop because of animals like elephants, bison or a deer come in the way and we reach our homes by 9pm,” said Deepa.
“On those days, I cannot not sell momos and we have to face losses. My father concentrates on cultivation and me and my elder sister run the shop. My elder sister Hema, 30, runs the shop alone when I go to school. After returning from school around 7pm, I prepare momos and sell them,” she said.
Deepa’s mother died when she was two years old. Her father owns a small shop which sells potato chips, cold drinks and biscuits. Deepa sells 12 momos at Rs 20 a plate. She prepares 200 momos on an average everyday and makes around 1,000 momos a day on holidays.
Deepa said her family earns around Rs 6,000 per month. “I have to pay Rs 60 everyday to autorickshaws which is around Rs 1,500 per month. This amount is quite big for us.”
Sandeep Karkun, the director of Little Flower School, Alipurduar, said: “These five students from Santlabari are very well mannered and good in studies. In the higher secondary, we will try to extend support to them.”