The first edition of IIHM presents The Telegraph School Awards for Excellence 2023 North Bengal was held on Tuesday on the theme “responsibilities of you, me and everybody”, and saluted the undaunted spirit of students who have fought against adversities with courage, conviction and relentless toil to emerge winners.
“Let’s take our masks off when we step out of this auditorium and each one of us should try to reach out to at least one person and keep him or her in school and help that person in pursuing his or her studies,” said Barry O’ Brien, trustee, The Telegraph Education Foundation (TTEF), before the curtains came down on the first edition of the north Bengal awards.
The words captured the primary objective of the initiative of the TTEF.
“Every year we hold this award with a theme. In previous years, we have had themes like how school bags are getting heavier for kids or how students can bond beyond boundaries. This year, the theme is responsibilities of you, me and everybody,” O’Brien said.
In the 28th year of The Telegraph School Awards for Excellence — a unique initiative aimed at celebrating the success of the education fraternity — the show made a debut in north Bengal on Tuesday.
At a programme held at Dinabandhu Manch in Siliguri, more than 700 students, their parents, teachers and eminent personalities became part of the biggest “non-competitive” education awards in the region.
Some of the biggest brand ambassadors of north Bengal gave away awards like the PCM Group Award for Courage, Caring Minds Award for a School that Cares, Luxmi Group Award for Social Service, Dr A.P. O’Brien Memorial Lifetime Achievement Award for a Teacher, Adamas University Award for Academic Excellence by a Student and the Eveready Industries India Limited Award for Excellence in Extracurricular Activities.
One of the most sought-after recognitions at the event went to St Joseph’s School (North Point), Darjeeling, and DAV School, Siliguri, which received The Telegraph School of the Year Award.
The DAV School was recognised for its all-round excellence, ranging from academics to sports to cultural activities. Established in 1996, the school has emerged as a prominent institution in Siliguri. As of now, the school has over 1,500 students.
Established in 1888, St Joseph’s School (North Point) is one of the oldest schools in Darjeeling. The heritage institution has students from across the world and the alumni include members of the royal families of Nepal and Bhutan.
An attempt to recognise the contributions made by teachers in touching the lives of their students was also made with eight educators from across the region felicitated during the programme. Neena West, a teacher of repute from Darjeeling, was awarded The Bhawanipur Education Society College Honour for an Educationist.
“Let us together celebrate this transformative power of education and take forward this noble cause,” said Sanjukta Bose, director, IIHM.
From the hills of Darjeeling to Kamakhhyaguri in Alipurduar, students, parents and teachers from different parts of north Bengal converged on Siliguri for the event.
“This is a giant step. We had initially thought of starting this event in north Bengal in 2019 but Covid played spoilsport. We are happy that we have now brought the school awards to north Bengal,” said Amitabha Datta in his opening remarks as the chairman of the TTEF.
Over the next two-and-a-half hours, inspiring stories of how students have been fighting adversities in their pursuit for excellence filled the auditorium.
“This award is not a competition. It’s about a celebration of life,” said O’Brien, explaining the philosophy of the award.
Over the past 27 years, the TTEF has tried to touch the lives of at least 10,000 students and helped them to ensure that they carry on with their studies.
On Tuesday morning, Dinabandhu Mancha at the heart of Siliguri was witness to scores of bravehearts receiving appreciation for their efforts as the iconic song of the band Queen, “We are the champions”, played in the background.
“I am so happy that the school awards are now in north Bengal. The attempt by the TTEF to touch the lives of students deserves special appreciation,” said Gautam Deb, the mayor of Siliguri, who attended the programme.
Some of the most prominent names from the world of education, business and sports in north Bengal were
present in the auditorium, maintained by the state’s information and cultural affairs department.
“I was spellbound after I learnt about the stories of struggle of some of the award winners…. It was an experience of a lifetime,” said Kamal Kumar Mittal of the PCM Group.
Not just Mittal, all those who presented awards on the stage seemed moved by the journey of the awardees, which O’Brien narrated as they walked up to the stage.
Prachi Tiwari, a 15-year-old Class IX student of Siliguri Hindi High School (Girls), was honoured for standing up to her parents and refusing to get married — after her elder sister had eloped — to pursue her studies.
Khushi Kumari, another teen, also moved the audience with her tale of grit and conviction. The daughter of a phuchkawala from Kamakhyaguri in Alipurduar, Khushi did not let economic hardship, which meant no
access to tutors, come in her way as she studied “even harder” to secure 93.29 per cent in her Madhyamik examinations.
Puja Gupta, a teacher at Dr Rajendra Prasad Girls High School, Siliguri, said she had faced tremendous odds in her life as she had lost both legs in a railway accident.
“Despite the disability, I pursued my dream and became a teacher. Today, when I was listening to the stories of valour and grit of these children at the award function, I felt so encouraged. I also felt hopeful about the future generation of our country. Attending the event here in Siliguri gave me immense pleasure. Some of the stories gave me the power to fight even harder in future,” she said.