The Telegraph
Sunday , August 31 , 2014
CIMA Gallary

Tryst with true heroes

• Monosij Banerjee lost the use of his right hand after a debilitating epileptic fit on the morning of his Higher Secondary mathematics exam. He switched to his left hand and managed to score 61.

• Sarika Singh wages a daily war against her parents (who want her to enter “a dangerous profession”) to continue her education.

• Satyajit Dolui works two jobs a day and yet scores 77.6 per cent in HS 2014.

Many such supermen and superwomen in uniform, below 18 years of age, were the chief guests at the 19th edition of The Telegraph School Awards for Excellence, presented by Peerless, in association with Parle-G and powered by Adamas University, at the Science City auditorium on Saturday morning.

The odds that these students face — and overcome — come in all shapes and sizes. And their heroic tales drew rousing applause from the packed auditorium.

While Sumedha Saha, a Class VIII student of Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan and one of the recipients of The Surrendra Paul Memorial Award for Courage, is fighting cancer, Hafiz Ahmed of Seventh Day Adventist Senior Secondary School and a recipient of the same award suffers from a rare neuromuscular disorder that keeps him in a wheelchair.

While Apurba Rana of New Alipore Multipurpose School and a recipient of The Nirmal Chandra Kumar Memorial Scholarship for Knowledge Enhancement struggles to make ends meet and educate himself by selling flowers on the pavement, Saurabh Basak of Dhupguri Higher Secondary School and recipient of The Dr. Anindya Kanti Majumdar Memorial Scholarship helps his mother run a small lottery shop but has not left his education to luck, scoring 83.2 per cent in HS 2014.

“When we started in 1996 in a very small way we did not know where it was going. We put the cart before the horse and in matters of the heart it is a good idea to put the cart before the horse,” said Barry O’Brien, the convener of The Telegraph School Awards for Excellence.

The theme this year was handicrafts and eight scholarships were given away to deserving young candidates who work with some fast-disappearing handicrafts of Bengal.

It wasn’t just the little heroes who were honoured on Saturday, because courage to take on tough tasks and the thirst for making a difference don’t have an age limit.

Two such individuals were awarded with The Dr Mrs N.B. O’Brien Memorial Lifetime Achievement Award. Father Boris D’Santos of St. Xavier’s Collegiate School was given the award posthumously along with 82-year-old Anupa Dasgupta of Brahmo Balika Shikshalaya for their commitment to spread education. “This is a very holy day for me. I feel like I have come to offer prayers to God,” said the emotional octogenarian.

“A true mastermoshai”, mathematics teacher of Patha Bhavan Dipankar Sarkar, received The Radhashyam Roy Memorial Award for An Outstanding Educationist and walked on stage to a standing ovation from his students, among them film-makers Sandip Ray and Anik Datta.

Another hero called on the stage was Anuradha Koirala, the founder-director of Maiti Nepal, a non-profit organisation dedicated to helping victims of trafficking. She, fittingly, gave away The Surrendra Paul Memorial Award of Courage.

“I should start a programme like this myself and I hope I can meet your standard. Thank you for opening my eyes,” said Koirala, who, as a teacher of 20 years, was pleased to find herself among so many students and educationists.

Sukanta Chaudhuri, chairman of The Telegraph Education Foundation, urged the audience to come forward and help all those people who are struggling to get an education.

“There is a remarkable urge for education among the most disadvantaged sections of our society…. They want to give their children the benefits they have not themselves had and to that end they are prepared to make sacrifices of a nature that maybe most people sitting in this hall can barely understand…. There is tremendous desire and tremendous need and it behoves all of us to do what little we can to help this cause and to dream of an India where the entire nation has been empowered with the development of human resources. And for that task we would like to call upon you,” said Chaudhuri.

Barry O’Brien announced a new initiative, which he called “opening the window to the world”, urging people to donate tools — from laptops to wheelchairs — that will facilitate learning for many.

A step in that direction was taken by Ballygunge Shiksha Sadan and Delhi Public School Megacity, who gave away a desktop and a laptop to two needy students.

The Telegraph Education Foundation also launched its website “We are opening the window to the world so that they also can be part of the movement,” said O’Brien.

The Telegraph School of the Year given to schools that have shown all-round excellence had joint winners — The Frank Anthony Public School and Ballygunge Shiksha Sadan.