July 17, 2015
WB CM Mamata Banerjee helps tribal kids live dreams
Dasharath Mandi had severed ties with textbooks after he quit school in Class IV. A daily wage labour and a part-time carpenter in Belpahari — among Bengal’s most poverty-stricken blocks — Dasharath nurtured a dream, though. He wanted his 10-year-old son Sisir to study, complete school and perhaps even college. In January, Dasharath wrote to chief minister Mamata Banerjee and sought her help to admit Sisir to an English-medium school in Kolkata. The CMO was prompt to reply. The government made all arrangements and got Sisir admitted to South Point School.
Sisir is not the only one to make the cut. Around the same time when Dasharath had written to the CM, Manu Hembram, another daily wage labourer in Nayagram, too, wrote to her about his 10-year-old daughter Swarnalata. His neighbour Haripada Besra, also a daily labour, pleaded for his daughter Jaba; Jamboni’s Mamoni Mudi wrote for her daughter Laximoni. And the list grew to 11. Letters reached Nabanna from Jamboni’s Mahadeb Bagal and Sagen Kisku, Rimil Murmu and Rohit Kumar Mandi from Belpahari, Nayagram’s Ruma Hansda and Shefali Hansda and Belpahari’s Laksman Mandi as well. All these kids will now study at the reputable school at state expense.
It was in March when West Midnapore district magistrate Jagdish Prasad Meena received a call from the chief secretary’s office. “We were directed to reach out to these homes and prepare a detailed proposal. We were informed that the state would fund their school education in a reputable school in Kolkata,” Meena said. He entrusted ADM (Panchayat) Sushanta Chakraborty to follow up the ‘project’ till closure.
“The chief minister had made this request to the school authorities. It is a very unique and commendable step and we felt we should also do our bit. The students have been admitted in Class V and VI. Their school fees have been waived, they have been provided with uniforms, books and stationeries. The children are brilliant and exceptionally gifted. The only drawback is the language. We are trying to give them special English coaching. But we have decided not to segregate them; they will study with other students,” said South Point school spokesperson Krishna Damani.
The West Midnapore DM added, “The state government has arranged their boarding and lodging facilities in Kolkata. For the moment, they will stay in the Backward Classes Welfare Department’s Salt Lake hostel campus.”
“Amra murkho manush, Shefali onek boro hok amra chai. Amader khoob gorbo hochche or jonno (We are illiterate people. We want Shefali to succeed. We are very proud of her),” said Manu.
Sagen Kisku’s father Sujit, working as a NVF in the Midnapore Police Lines, says, “The school is huge. And the teachers spoke to us for a long time trying to understand our apprehensions and fear. They are very kind. The very fact that they are studying in such a big school is a milestone by itself.”