The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Valiant tread in marks march For them, hardship was no hurdle in marks march

Aparna Jana lives in a small room in a corner of a primary school’s terrace in north Calcutta. Her father is the school caretaker. No one in her family has ever been to an English-medium school. Few could have predicted Aparna’s score of 85 per cent in ICSE 2003, with 90 per cent-plus in two of the six subjects. And all of this, without a private tutor and against several odds.

Harmanjit Kaur of Belgachhia, who just passed her ISC with over 80 per cent, is working as a salesgirl. Her father has been confined to bed since he met with a near-fatal accident two years ago. There were days when she would walk for close to an hour to her central Calcutta school, with no money left to pay for public transport.

There are thousands of students in the city who have scored much more than Aparna or Harmanjit in this year’s ICSE and ISC exams. But these two girls — and Sneha Gujrati, Anita Agarwal and Shyama Agarwal — stand out in the English-medium school system that appears to hardly have any room at the top for boys and girls from families that are not financially well-placed.

Aparna’s father, Bimal Jana, is “proud” of his daughter’s achievement. “I am the sole bread-winner in my family and my salary does not allow me to keep private tutors for her,” he admits. Jana, however, is grateful to his employer — also a proprietor of a school — for encouraging him to put her into an English-medium school after noticing his daughter’s aptitude.

Aparna’s success has also earned kudos from her school (Rajasthan Vidya Mandir) principal Kajari Mukherjee. And both Aparna and Harmanjit, who outshone so many others despite every drawback, insist that they would not have been able to excel in the exams without the cooperation of the teachers and authorities of their schools — Rajasthan Vidya Mandir and Welland Gouldsmith School.

“Aparna, Harmanjit and all those who have scored high marks despite coming from poorer families deserve much more praise, as they are competing in a language that is, unfortunately, still the rich man’s language (English),” opines the principal of a central Calcutta ICSE school. “It is extremely difficult for children like Aparna or Harmanjit to cope with the ICSE and ISC courses and score high marks, as their families cannot afford to provide them with the requisite economic and social infrastructure,” he adds.

The success of the Aparnas and the Harmanjits is noteworthy for another reason, feels Welland Gouldsmith School principal Gillian D’Costa Hart. “That they, and others like them, have come out with flying colours in both the ICSE and ISC without the help of any private tutor adds to their achievement.”

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