Alipurduar: All of 17, Asha Praja of Lataguri in Jalpaiguri district can’t afford to be a carefree teenager.
Ever since her father died in 2021, the Class XII student has had to work as a farmer to help out her family of five. Her future plans? She wants to become a soldier for the country.
On Tuesday, Asha was among the 100 students who received scholarships at the first edition of the IIHM presents The Telegraph School Awards for Excellence 2023 North Bengal.
“My father Dilip Praja, who was the sole breadwinner of our family, died in 2021. He always dreamt of educating his four children,” said Asha soon after receiving the scholarship.
Asha was among the nine of the 100 scholarship recipients called on stage to physically receive the scholarship.
Asha said that soon after her father’s death, the onus to sustain the family fell on Asha and her mother.
“My eldest brother has some physical problems. My other brother is in college and my younger sister is studying in Class VIII. My mother started working as a day labourer, but her earnings alone were too meagre for all of us. So I chipped in,” said Asha, who got 63 per cent in Madhyamik despite working in the fields.
“I now go to work in the farms regularly. I earn anything between Rs 200 to 250 a day as does my mother. My brother also helps sometimes,” said Asha.
The Class XII student of Lataguri Girls High School spoke about the severe financial crisis she and her family underwent after her father died. “There were days when we survived on puffed rice (muri) and biscuits,” said Asha.
But dropping out of school was never an option. Asha obtained 70 per cent marks in her Class XI exams.
“My teachers help me a lot,” said Asha, who wants to join the Indian Army.
Daughter of a humble phuchka seller, Khushi Kumari of Kamakhyaguri along the Assam-Bengal, who scored 93.28 per cent in Madhyamik this year, is equally determined.
Khushi, 17, now studying science in Class XI at the Kamakhyaguri Girls High School, said her father barely earns Rs 5,000 a month, but his encouragement is “priceless”.
“I want to be an engineer,” said Khushi, soon after receiving The Eveready Industries India Ltd scholarship.
Kishanti Oraon, 19, an alumna of Belacoba Girls High School in Rajganj, Jalpaiguri, received The Luxmi Group Scholarship.
“I went to school covering a distance of 16km to and fro every day,” said the tribal girl. The path cuts through forests with wildlife.
Kishanti has enrolled as a Bengali honours student in Malbazar College.
“All students who received the scholarships are winners in their own right,” saidLaxmi Limbu Kaushal, director, Luxmi Township Holdings.
The life of Shanto Roy, 15, of Debijhora Higher Secondary School, another scholarship winner, is no less inspiring.
As a child, Shanto lost his father. “My mother works as a farm hand to support my education. I dream of giving my mother a life of comfort,” said Shanto, who is preparing for Madhyamik in 2024 without tutors.