Meritorious students hailing from poor sections of the society in Odisha have been provided smartphones to help them attend online classes during coronavirus-induced lockdown to sustain their focus on the NEET exam scheduled on July 26 for admission in medical colleges.
These wards of humble vegetable sellers, fishermen and marginal farmers are students of “Zindagi foundation” run by a non-governmental organisation for talented students of Odisha, to help them give wings to their dreams.
The man behind the initiative is academician Ajay Bahadur Singh, who was forced to quit medical studies due to his father’s kidney ailment in 1990 and had to sell tea and sherbet to help his family survive.
There are 19 medical aspirants, both boys and girls, at present under the project from remote corners of Odisha who will be undertaking the national level undergraduate medical entrance exam on July 26 next to qualify for admission in medical colleges.
The lockdown caused by the spread of coronavirus forced them to return home to be with the family in the hour of crisis. Shattered that their dreams of becoming a medico would not be fulfilled under the disturbing condition, the foundation reached out to them by making available smartphones to many whom they could reach meeting the lockdown regulations, while some others walked to homes of relatives and acquaintances to avail smartphone for attending the online classes held by the qualified teachers.
“On the insistence of the students, we let them go home to be with their family in this hour of crisis, but within days of the imposition of the lockdown, we made arrangements for running online classes so that their studies are not disturbed at the last hour of preparation for NEET exam,” Foundation chairman Ajay Bahadur Singh told PTI on Saturday.
A student Manjit Bala, whose father catches fish in east Malkangiri as a living, stayed with a kin in Koraput instead of going to his village in the interior where mobile phone network is a problem to attend the online classes regularly, Singh said.
Kshirodini Saho, daughter of a marginal farmer of Angul district, walks three km to a neighbouring village to avail smartphone of a kin to join the classes regularly. The syllabus was completed before the lockdown came into force, “now we are regularly conducting doubts and concept building classes for three hours thrice a week by competent teachers to fine-tune their preparations for the big day (NEET exam),” Mr. Singh said.
Mock tests are held twice a week to further horn their preparations, he said, adding this will continue till the exam in the prevailing condition.
“I keep talking to these students as well as to their parents to keep their energy and motivation high,” Mr. Singh said. “I really feel proud when these young medicos say had they been a qualified doctor by now they would have joined hands with health workers to wedge work against the deadly virus,” the foundation chairman said.
The Zindagi foundation project for medical in Odisha has a parallel in the ‘Super 30’ experiment of mathematician Anand Kumar who helps students from deprived classes crack JEE exam to qualify for admission in IITs.
About the inspiration for launching the programme, Mr. Singh said, he had encountered a girl selling garlands outside Lord Jagannath temple at Puri, who made a fervent request to people buy them so that she can finance her studies.
In 2016 he launched the ‘Zindagi Foundation’ in Bhubaneswar to help students who share his plight. Under the programme, talented students from poor financial backgrounds are selected through a statewide screening test are provided free food, lodging and teaching to help them become a doctor.
Fourteen of its students had cracked NEET in 2018 and 12of them got their admission in government medical colleges of Odisha. They were hosted by Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik in July last year to appreciate their achievements. The initiative to mentor aspiring medicos from financially downtrodden families has drawn effusive praise from Bollywood actor Hrithik Roshan, who played the role of mathematician Anand Kumar in the biopic “Super 30.”
Anand Kumar is also a great fan of the Odisha project and has talked to the students at Bhubaneswar several times.