| A banner on display at The Telegraph School Awards for Excellence in Calcutta on Saturday. Picture by Pradip Sanyal
A girl in school uniform, who has lost her legs to polio, struggling on to the stage with a smile to sign the bottom corner of a giant banner reading: ‘With Love From India’…
Courage and conviction. Hope and heroism. It was all there as the “VIPs in school uniform” took centrestage at The Telegraph School Awards for Excellence this morning. The function bringing together students, teachers and some very proud parents had a theme running through it — ‘Let’s give peace a chance’ was the heartfelt plea.
Leading the cry were hundreds of girls and boys in the choir on stage and hundreds in the Science City auditorium waving their Tricolours. Carrying this message of hope will be Shovik Banerjee of La Martiniere for Boys, appointed “peace and goodwill ambassador”, as he travels to Pakistan in January 2003, “to change enemies to friends… in our little way”.
The red curtains came down with the ‘love song’ — but not before several remarkable tales of triumph amidst adversity were brought to light by host Barry O’Brien. Not before parents — for once — had been given their rightful pride of place. In a special tribute to these unsung heroes, a new award was instituted in the memory of “a departed angel”.
Abhirup Bhadra, whose courage in the face of leukaemia had won him a certificate of honour last August, had promised to be here today. The 16-year-old student of South Point could not make it. He died on July 29. It is in his name that the Thank You Baba-Ma award has been started. Sushmita Bhadra, Abhirup’s mother, handed over the award to Bijoy Garai, a chanawallah from Purulia, who raised son Bhondu alone, fighting poverty and desolation. Bhondu scored 79 per cent in Madhyamik 2002.
The efforts of educators and schools were also recognised. Swami Bishwanathananda, general secretary of the Vivekananda Mission Ashram Chaitanyapur, was inducted into The Telegraph Education Foundation Hall of Fame. Swamiji has, over the past four decades, single-handedly brought education and healthcare to a small village near Haldia. “Having started out with nothing, the projects now involve Rs 20 crore,” he said, urging students to seek inspiration from the teachings of Swami Vivekananda.
The Surrendra Paul Memorial Award for Courage was given by Yeasin Pathan — the Muslim peon engaged in a lone struggle to save the terracotta temples of Pathra — to Aparupa Banerjee, the Class X student of United Missionary, who saw her father and uncle die in an accident on the highway and is now determined to “stay strong for her mother and her family”.
Many an award was shared as the roll of honour spanned the city and the districts, those in the spotlight and those in the shadows. The Telegraph School of the Year Award went to Loreto Day School, Sealdah, and St James. The Amul Award for the Best Academic Performance by a School was given to Al-Ameen Mission School, Howrah, and South Point High School.