|Sonali Gorai studies at home. Picture by Arup Sarkar
Sixteen-year-old Sonali Gorai of Durgapur thinks she has done too well for her own good.
Sonali wants to become a doctor and treat her parents and sister, who are suffering from various ailments. But she has been losing sleep since she received her Madhyamik marksheet on May 22.
The girl secured 100 out of 100 in Maths and letter marks in other science subjects with 79 per cent in the aggregate, to be hit by the realisation of what she cannot get.
Sonali, whose father Sadhan Gorai, 45, earns about Rs 1,800 a month by working at a grocery shop, spelt it out. “My father would be unable to bear the expenses, let alone the admission to a medical college later. My parents suffer from cardiac diseases and my seven-year-old sister has a throat problem. I, too, have a breathing problem. What will I do with my results now?”
The pass-out from Durgapur B-zone Steel Town Girl’s High School lives with her parents and sister in the two-room house on a plot that officially belongs to the Durgapur Steel Plant. So far, Sonali has raised money for her studies by making paper bags (thonga).
“I earn Rs 600 a month by making thongas and supplying them to the local stores. But it is not enough to meet the expenses any more. My mother used to work as a domestic help but she cannot do any job now because of ill health. My father fails to go to work frequently as he is suffering from heart problems and malnutrition,” said Sonali, seated inside her tile-roof house on the outskirts of the steel township. The girl didn’t have a private tutor for her Class X studies and was helped by her schoolteachers, who gave her books and coaching for free.
Sonali wants to study science at the Plus II level in the same school but requires Rs 7,000 as admission fees and monthly fees of around Rs 700. “My father is unable to visit the doctor because of financial constraints. We need Rs 8,000 for my sister’s surgery to remove the block in her throat. How can I think of myself in this situation? I will have to leave studying and forget my dream,” she said.
“I had wanted to become a doctor and treat poor patients for free because of my own experience,” she added.
Gorai said when he couldn’t arrange for two square meals a day for his family, it was impossible to think of his daughter’s education. “I have advised her to start working as a domestic help. If anybody lends monetary support, my daughter’s dreams may come true,” he said.
The girl had appealed to her school for help. Its science teacher Tilak Mukherjee said he had earlier aided the girl with free coaching and was ready to do the same for her in HS. “I will try my best to help and will also speak to the headmaster,” he said.
On June 20, the school, following an application from Sonali, allowed her to take admission by paying Rs 380 instead of Rs 7,500 as other students have paid. But that has not ended her worries. Sonali was unable to buy books as she requires another Rs 3,000. She also cannot opt for private tuitions or meet the monthly tuition fee of Rs 750 in school.
“I am grateful as the school authority considered to slash the admission fee but I doubt whether I can continue to study,” she said.
Vice-principal Minakshi Basu said: “We will try to help the girl to the best of our ability.”