Published: 19th October 2020
Braving poverty, tragedy and COVID, all 19 students of this Odisha foundation cleared NEET. This is their inspiring story
Whether it was Khirodini whose house was destroyed or Satyajit who had to strike a balance between helping with his father's work and studying, Founder of Zindagi Foundation tried to be there for all
NEET aspirants had to brave all kinds of odds when they stepped out to attempt the exam this year, the biggest of them being the raging COVID-19 pandemic. But a few students had to face more misfortunes than others and that's why their success is even more special. Take Khirodini Sahoo, for example. Her house in Madhupur, a village surrounded by forests, in Mayurbhanj district was trampled upon by elephants whereas Subhalaxmi Sahoo had to get past bouts of depression to crack the exam. Khirodini secured an All-India Rank of 2594 and Subhalaxmi ranked 24831. Odisha-based Zindagi Foundation's mission has been to coach those NEET aspirants who are at an unfair advantage financially. This year, they selected 19 students, like Khirodini and Subhalaxmi, from underprivileged backgrounds and all 19 of them have qualified. And it is their success that the founder Ajay Bahadur Singh is jubilant about.
For the second time in a row, all the students of Zindagi Foundation cleared NEET, securing ranks between 2594 to 266976. The brainchild of Ajay Bahadur Singh, who also started Adyant +2 Science College, Zindagi Foundation was started in 2017 to offer NEET coaching to underprivileged students. They are selected via a test and then two Zindagi representatives visit their homes to assess their financial situation. Singh, who himself was a medical aspirant back in the day, says, "If I would have eventually become a doctor, I wouldn't be as happy as I feel today looking at our students’ success."
Owing to the pandemic, which has been sucking the positivity out of all our lives, students of Zindagi Foundation felt dejected. Especially after the lockdown, when they had to go back to their homes leaving behind the lodgings Zindagi was providing. That's when Singh stepped in and held one-on-one calls with students and their parents. "We had to boost their confidence. So slowly, we started online classes and conducted tests twice a week," says Singh. Those who lacked a smartphone were given one, those who had no network were eventually called back to the hostel. "I would encourage them to give mock tests with masks and not eat anything heavy after 10 am, so that they are prepared for the ordeal on D-Day," he shares.
Khirodini Sahoo used to walk two to three km one-way every day so that she can find network and participate in online classes as her village Madhupur was surrounded by jungle. And then, the family had to go through a great tragedy, mighty elephants had destroyed their house, their harvest and hence, their dreams. Upon that, the 19-year-old fell ill. "I came back to Zindagi Foundation's facilities in Bhubaneswar in an ambulance," shares the youngster who scored 657 and secured 2594th rank. She started studying for 14 hours again, apart from attending the online classes from 9 am to 2 pm. "I used to see my parents struggle in the fields every day. They would get around to eating their first morsel only at 1 pm. I was inspired by them," she says emotionally.
They did it | (Pic: Zindagi Foundation)
Subhalaxmi Sahoo's father earned Rs 5,000 and her mother would make up for the rest by taking tuitions. And then Cyclone Phani happened. "My mother had to mortgage her jewellery and all of this really tested my mental health," says the 19-year-old from Gangapada, Khurda district. Subhalaxmi has attempted NEET before and qualified yet she couldn't afford the fees of a government college. This time she has secured the 24831th rank and hopes that she will get a scholarship and is able to serve as a good doctor someday.
Satyajit Sahoo's preparations were going very well. But then Corona descended and messed everything up. But the 21-year-old managed to keep his spirits afloat and maintained his confidence levels. "My house is in Cuttack, so there were no network problems as much. But we had only one smartphone and I had to share it with my sister, which was slightly difficult," says the youngster. He is happy that the questions were relatively easy and he was able to secure an All-India rank of 11951.
Subhendu Parida would get up at 5 am every day because he had to help his father in preparing samosa, idly, dosa and other eatables they sold at a store. It was only at 7.30 am that he would get around to studying. "Ajay sir would tediously check for mistakes in our tests and suggest where we can improve and for that, I am extremely grateful," says the 21-year-old. He is happy with the 15993 rank he was able to secure and is aware that this doesn't mean things are going to be easy henceforth. Nevertheless, he is ready for the struggle and all he wants to do is be a good doctor.
Now that the students are past the first hurdle, clearing NEET, the next one is right around the corner, fees for medical college. "We would appreciate it if people come forward to sponsor these children. But if for some reason that does not happen, we will make sure we see to it that they become doctors, come what may," says Singh and concludes.