MY KOLKATA EDUGRAPH
ADVERTISEMENT
regular-article-logo Monday, 15 April 2024

At school awards, emerge stories of fortitude amid unspeakable odds

The Telegraph School Awards for Excellence 2022 in association with The Bhawanipur Education Society College, turns the spotlight on bravehearts

Debraj Mitra And Jhinuk Mazumdar Calcutta Published 04.09.22, 03:08 AM
Sergeant Prakash Ghosh who, while on  duty, came across a child reluctant to go to  school and now ensures the boy takes an  interest in studies, at the St. James’ School  auditorium on Saturday, at The Telegraph School Awards for Excellence 2022.

Sergeant Prakash Ghosh who, while on duty, came across a child reluctant to go to school and now ensures the boy takes an interest in studies, at the St. James’ School auditorium on Saturday, at The Telegraph School Awards for Excellence 2022. Pradip Sanyal

The masks have come off after two years of the pandemic but the blindfolds remain.

Blindfolds that keep society oblivious to the struggles of a Class VIII student whose mother was forced into prostitution by the pandemic’s ravages; a tribal boy — a first-generation learner with his father in jail — who dreams of becoming an IAS officer; and an aspiring doctor with a missing left foot.

ADVERTISEMENT

On Saturday, the 27th edition of IIHM presents The Telegraph School Awards for Excellence 2022 in association with The Bhawanipur Education Society College turned the spotlight on faces like these, while stressing that many others too need a helping hand. Barry O’Brien, trustee, The Telegraph Education Foundation, who hosted the event at the St. James’ School auditorium, set the tone saying: “While the mask no longer covers the mouth and the nose, the blindfolds, sadly, are back on, blinding us completely to the realities around — of desperation, deprivation and the rapidly increasing difference between those who have and those who don’t.”Stories of resilience and fortitude moved the audience at the programme, held in-person after two years.

Unnamed

One of the awardees, whose story “mirrors the society we live in”, stayed unnamed — a first in the 27 years of the award.The Class VIII student saw Covid take away his father’s job. Desperation prompted his mother to become a sex worker, and get arrested for prostitution. On a court’s orders, she is now under the supervision of a district probation and after-care officer. The boy’s father is now an agriculture labourer. In absentia, the boy, awarded the Late Debaprasad Purkayastha Scholarship, received one of the loudest rounds of applause from the audience. Sukanta Chaudhuri, professor emeritus at Jadavpur University and chairman of the awards and scholarship committee of The Telegraph Education Foundation, the non-profit which administers the awards, emphasised the need for “institutional” efforts to help the “lakhs of children affected by the pandemic”.“Something needs to be done in a truly institutional sense…. A huge learning deficit has accumulated in the past two years. The steps taken so far to close this learning deficit are grossly inadequate,” he told this newspaper.

The audience  saluted Sergeant Prakash Ghosh in appreciation. In the second row, extreme right, is Renu Khatun, saluting with her left hand. Her right hand chopped  off, allegedly by her husband, Renu refused to yield to despair and now has a job in the  state health department.

The audience saluted Sergeant Prakash Ghosh in appreciation. In the second row, extreme right, is Renu Khatun, saluting with her left hand. Her right hand chopped off, allegedly by her husband, Renu refused to yield to despair and now has a job in the state health department. Pradip Sanyal

Only education

Another story belonged to Surojit Hembram, a Class VI pupil at the Basudevpur Vidyamandir in Haripal, Hooghly, who lost his mother five years ago. He lives in a tribal hamlet with his grandmother and younger brother. His father is in jail. Surojit is determined to study and become an IAS officer. On Saturday, he won the Nabarun De Inspiring Excellence Scholarship.“Only education can help me stand on my feet. I can’t change my past but my future is in my hands,” Surojit told The Telegraph.Asked what else he was passionate about, the boy broke into a grin. “Football, I love scoring goals.”

Renu’s courage

Some of those who came onstage to give away the awards received as much applause as the recipients. Among them was Renu Khatun, 24, whose husband is accused of chopping off her right hand to prevent her becoming a government nurse. Renu has rewritten her life with her left hand.Satadal Chowdhury was one of the students who received their award from Renu. Satadal’s father lost his job during the Covid lockdown, leaving the family dependent on food distribution campaigns for their daily meals. The misfortune could not prevent Satadal scoring 95 per cent in Madhyamik 2021.As Renu patted Satadal with her left hand, Bob Marley’s anthem of hope — “Get up, stand up, stand up, stand up for your right” — played in the background.Not all the awardees were students.

Loretta D’Silva wipes her tears after  accepting the Abhirup Bhadra Memorial “Thank You, Baba-Ma” Award at IIHM  presents The Telegraph School Awards for Excellence 2022 in association with The Bhawanipur Education Society College at the St James’ School Auditorium. Loretta received the award from Sushmita Bhadra, mother of Abhirup Bhadra, a former recipient of the courage award. Abhirup passed away in 2002 but before that, he had asked his parents to attend the awards event to keep a promise he had made to “Barry Sir”. His mother has been attending the school awards event every year since then. To Loretta’s right is her daughter Greta who received a scholarship. Loretta, a Kalyani resident who lost her husband when Greta was 5, would cycle several kilometres every day and then catch a train to ensure her daughter could attend school in Calcutta.

Loretta D’Silva wipes her tears after accepting the Abhirup Bhadra Memorial “Thank You, Baba-Ma” Award at IIHM presents The Telegraph School Awards for Excellence 2022 in association with The Bhawanipur Education Society College at the St James’ School Auditorium. Loretta received the award from Sushmita Bhadra, mother of Abhirup Bhadra, a former recipient of the courage award. Abhirup passed away in 2002 but before that, he had asked his parents to attend the awards event to keep a promise he had made to “Barry Sir”. His mother has been attending the school awards event every year since then. To Loretta’s right is her daughter Greta who received a scholarship. Loretta, a Kalyani resident who lost her husband when Greta was 5, would cycle several kilometres every day and then catch a train to ensure her daughter could attend school in Calcutta. Telegraph photo

Fortitude

Loretta D’Silva lost her husband when her daughter, Greta, was five. The girl was enrolled in Julien Day School, Elgin Road, Bhowanipore. Loretta, who lived with Greta in Kalyani, would cycle down to the railway station with her daughter every day to catch the 4.16am to Sealdah.It would be late evening by the time mother and daughter returned home. Loretta would wake up at 2.30am the next day and prepare meals for her daughter, the routine continuing till Greta was transferred to Julien Day School, Kalyani. Today, Greta, a Class XII student, is a national-level throwball player, skilful footballer and a house captain.On Saturday, Loretta won the Abhirup Bhadra Memorial “Thank You Baba-Ma” Award and Greta received the Chittajit De Memorial Scholarship.As Loretta wiped her face, the host asked: “Are you crying?” She was.“I hope I have instilled some fortitude in her,” Loretta later told this newspaper.

Rapid response

The awardees’ stories touched virtual viewers too, enough to inspire some of them to action.Prerana Rana, a second-year MBBS student at the Nil Ratan Sircar Medical College and Hospital, had her left foot amputated because of synovial sarcoma, a rare form of cancer, a decade ago. Her father is a farmer in West Midnapore.She needs Rs 70,000 for surgery that will give her a new left foot. The headmaster of her school has raised Rs 30,000.Minutes after Prerana had received the Bansari Saha and Late Moloy Saha Scholarship came an unexpected but welcome bit of news.Anjana Saha, principal of the Mahadevi Birla World Academy, who was watching the programme online, messaged the organisers saying she would pay the remaining Rs 40,000.

Posthumous

Saptanshu Ghosh, a Class VII student at Adamas International School and patient of a genetic neuromuscular disease, was undergoing surgery when his school sent his nomination for a courage award.Saptanshu, who won medals in the International Mathematical Olympiad despite being confined to a wheelchair, passed away last month. On Saturday, he posthumously received the Surrendra Paul Memorial Award for Courage.The previous edition of the awards witnessed scholarships worth Rs 50 lakh disbursed. This year, the foundation expects the amount to go up to Rs 60 lakh.

Follow us on:
ADVERTISEMENT