Poor students; Rich Dividends

Luxurious schools, pampering parents and ultra delux facilities are not the requirements for those students who wanted to achieve something great in their lives. Especially in their studies,sports and extra curricular activities. Tales are countless across India where children from poorest of the poor backgrounds are able to break the national records. In my village, Alampatty (18 Kms from Namakkal, Tamil Nadu) a girl called Kirthuika scored 1169 marks out 1200 in the recently announced XIIth standard board exam. Her father works as a watch man in a private firm earning Rs.100 per day. Kirthuika’s mother keeps a cow and two goats to support her girl’s education. Sheer selflessness of her made Kirthuika to scale such a height in education. Now she wants to do information technology from PSG college, Coimbatore to shine in life. She is not an odd case in the village.

Sanghamitra daughter of a nurse scored 473 marks out 500 in the Xth standard exams. Despite acute power shortages and odd factors working against them, Children of Alampatty have performed extremely well.

Patralekha Chatterjee writes in The Deccan Chronicle on 7th June 2012

Thesaurus.com tosses up more than two dozen synonyms for “bad news”. If you are weary of “bad news”, try misfortune, problem, woe, difficulty, dilemma… But there are times when even Thesaurus.com cannot cope with the drip-drip of bad news. Then, instead of moping and hoping that somehow, miraculously, things will change, it is good to go inspiration-hunting in forgotten places.

Last week, an unusual piece of news came out of Manipur, a beautiful state accustomed to being either forgotten by the movers and shakers in Delhi or grabbing attention through the by-now-familiar cocktail of bad news — drugs, AIDS, gunfire, despair and Irom Sharmila. Now there is a new story — a poor boy from a Manipur village has topped this year’s All-India CBSE (Central Board of Secondary Education) Class 12 examination in the science stream.

By now everyone knows about Mohammed Ismat, the boy from Lilong, a village with frequent power outages and no Internet connection, though it is on the outskirts of state capital Imphal. Ismat defied all odds to score 495 out of 500, or 99 per cent, in his school-leaving exam — the first student from the Northeast to achieve such a feat.

Everyone in this country knows what a big deal this is. Parents are on tenterhooks for months before the CBSE exam. Many give up their social life altogether to give moral support to their children. Those who can afford hire the best tutors that money can buy.

Ismat did not have any such luck. His mother died when he was 18 months old. His father, a primary school teacher, had seven children to look after. And yet, Ismat made it bigger than others. His next goals: admission to Delhi’s prestigious St. Stephen’s College and then topping the civil services exam.

How did this village boy from a forgotten part of the country who often studied by candlelight make it to the top? “Nothing is impossible. I believed I could do it. I have a strong conviction that everything is possible if you are determined,” he says, simply.

Clearly, the reasons for Ismat’s success were his focus and self-belief despite the hurdles life placed in his path. But conviction alone was not enough. The principal of his school believed in him as well and paid the exam fee when he found that his star pupil did not have enough money. That and the constant encouragement in the face of tremendous odds kept Ismat going.

Ismat’s story takes me back to my visit to another Manipuri village four years ago. It was late afternoon. Inside a little room, a “community support class” was in progress. Around 20 boys and girls from nursery to primary classes were busy doing their homework. There was a power outage, like the ones Ismat lived with, but the children remained unruffled. As the fading rays of the sun streamed in through a half-open window, a woman in her early Twenties continued to supervise the studies. During a 10-minute recess, there was a celebration — a round of applause for one of the boys in the room. He had topped his class.

The children attending the after-class were among the most vulnerable in and around the village. Most came from communities whose immune system had collapsed. Their parents were intravenous drug users. A few had lost their parents to AIDS. Once upon a time, the room was a library, I was told. But the local youth club figured that having a support class for children at risk was a better use of the room. “In the absence of this support class, these children would be roaming in the streets, playing truant. Many would have dropped out of school and God knows what would have happened to them,” the general secretary of the youth club told me.

That community support class and Ismat have something in common. They show that while buffeted by crises, it is imperative not to lose heart, to remain focused.

Today, one boy’s awesome success in a conflict-scarred pocket of India has ignited new aspirations. While announcing the monetary incentives for both Ismat and the school management, Manipur’s education minister M. Okendro appealed to parents and authorities of other schools to emulate the success mantra of the boy, his teachers and the school management. The minister has also promised to support Ismat in higher studies.

Success stories in education perhaps provide the best antidote to bad news blues. And there have been quite a few success stories in the recent past — all showing the triumph of focus and determination over constraints. Some remarkable anecdotes were heard last Sunday, when the Centre for Dalit Studies in Hyderabad felicitated students who had cracked the entrance exam to the Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT).

Seventeen-year-old B. Bhanu Chander’s farmer father spent his money on two pursuits — a fruitless one to find underground water that would irrigate the crops he tried to grow in drought-prone Nalgonda district; and a very fruitful one for Bhanu’s education. Now Bhanu has a rank of 581 in the IIT entrance test, though his father does not even know what the IIT is.

J. Usha Sree has also qualified for IIT. Her father works as a coolie in Parkal, Andhra’s Warangal district. He had trouble feeding his family. But he never thought of curtailing his daughter’s education, he said at the felicitation ceremony. Now Usha’s younger brother wants to join the IIT coaching class where she used to go. As for her, she wants to join the civil services, like Ismat. And then she wants to take education to every home in her village.

In the middle of the bad news barrage, there are quite a few such instances of good news. And they all have one thing in common. The heroes and heroines of these stories stayed totally committed to their goals despite all the hurdles thrown at them by India’s creaky infrastructure. From the Mahabharata to the modern day, the recipe for victory/success has been the same: cut through the clutter and focus, focus, focus.