Despite coming from poor families, these students have got good marks in board exams.

It was a sultry Monday afternoon which suddenly came alive with joy, hope and disappointment. The Class X State Board results has been declared and The Hindu Downtown met children from economically backward sections hailing from T. Nagar and Mylapore, to find out their stories, their struggles and their will to excel. This is a story not about the toppers, but about children who struggle in their day-to-day life and still manage to succeed by getting good percentage in their board exams.

Juggling responsibilities is a tiring job, but that is exactly what G. Sandhya, of RKM Sarada Vidyalaya Model Higher Secondary School, did. “I live with my sisters in Chennai. My elder sister just finished her Plus 2 and the younger one is going to Class X. My parents live in Cuddalore. Both me and my elder sister had to study for our board exams, we had to take turns for housekeeping and cooking. We found time to study just for a few hours in the evening. In the end, we somehow managed to score good marks,” says Sandhya, who is the school topper with 478/500.

Bavithra, who scored 447/500, says, “My father is a labourer, and my mother is a home maker, but they never made it obvious to me that they were struggling for money, they encouraged me to score good marks and come up in life.”

“My father passed away when I was young. My mother single-handedly raised myself and my two sisters and provided us good education. She is my role model,” says Priya, who also goes to the same school. Another student, Praneetha says, “My father divorced my mother when I was four-years-old. She works as a typist and earns Rs. 4,000 per month. She motivated me to perform well.” All of them in unison said that their school helped them overcome the difficulties of facing an all-new syllabus and conducted special classes. The Headmistress of the school proudly asserts, “We have achieved 97 per cent result. We have been struggling for many years to achieve this goal. I am proud of my of teachers and students.”

A bunch of chirpy students from Little Oxford Matric Higher Secondary School, T. Nagar, said that their teachers enabled them to perform well in their examinations.

Sri Vidya, who scored 460/500, says, “I worked hard before the exam. My brother was the first to complete school education in my family.” Anitha, who scored 443/500, is a first generation learner in her family. Dilliganesh, who scored 425/500, says, “Our teachers made sure that we understood the lesson thoroughly before moving on to the next.”

A Government aided school in T.Nagar, (that does not want to be named) saw students from families who are below poverty line, shine in the board exams. N. Vignesh, son of labourer is the school topper with 425/500. N Naveen, who is staying away from his parents who are working outside the city, has scored 414/500. This school has various other children who have participated in national and zonal level sporting competitions and have done well in their exams.

The Headmaster at Kesari Higher Secondary School, Mylapore, says, “We provide education to children from a poor background for a small fee. We think we are doing a service and have the best interest of the children at heart.” Naveen, a maths teacher at this school, says, “These children don't have enough exposure to know the difference between good and bad. We have students whose fathers are auto drivers and coolies, or they are raised by single parents who struggle to make ends meet. There are even students who work part time or help their parents in the shop, but still managed to get through the exam.” Poonam Sharma of this school has come first with 438/500. She does not have father and her brother supports the family.

These children have looked beyond poverty to embark on a path towards a bright future. Their courage and commitment are inspiring.

At the same time, one should also keep in mind the words of John Gardner Jr.: “For every talent that poverty has stimulated, it has blighted a hundred.”

(Shreevarshini is a third year student of English literature, Ethiraj College for Women and Nivedita is a third year student of Journalism, MOP Vaishnav College for Women.)

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