Published: 03rd November 2021
Odisha's Zindagi Foundation does it again! All 18 of their students have cleared NEET 2021. This is their story
Now that the students of Zindagi Foundation have cleared NEET, the foundation is looking at gathering funds and enabling their education
Where else would children of a milkman, rickshaw puller, daily labourer and a weaver get a shot at becoming doctors? Zindagi Foundation has been helping unlock the dream of several underprivileged medical aspirants in Odisha since 2017. This year too, all the 18 beneficiary students of the foundation have cleared NEET (National Eligibility cum Entrance Test) UG 2021, much to the delight of the founder Ajay Bahadur Singh.
Zindagi Foundation is the endeavour of the educationist where he handpicks students who dream of becoming a doctor but don't have the means to, via an exam, and then provide them with all the facilities they might need — from accommodation and food to books and coaching. But this year, given the pandemic, their hostel facilities had to close abruptly. So how did they turn things around for the children? "We packed a punch via the online mode and together, dedicated 12 hours a day to their studies with appropriate breaks," says Ajay Bahadur Singh. Starting at 8 am, the first half was dedicated to teaching while the other half, post 1 am, was supervised self-study. Supervised so that if students had any doubts at any point, all they had to do is lift their heads up to the ongoing Zoom call on their phones and ask.
Countering all problems, one at a time
Internet access, patchy networks, incompatible devices and a lack of electricity, the odds are stacked up higher for those from the underprivileged communities, especially when it comes to online classes. But Singh countered most of it by giving devices. A few aspirants who were in very, very remote areas were put up in a flat (since all hostels were closed) and all was well again.
But what about their mental health, which amidst a gruelling pandemic and equally gruelling lockdowns, must have surely been in tatters? Several virtual talks by esteemed guests were organised. Think Anand Kumar (Super 30), Himanshu Lal, DIG of Police, Balasore and many more. And when the government allowed hostels to reopen, from about mid-August, students practised with OMR sheets vigorously. "Because, after all, this is an offline exam. And no matter how many online mock exams we give them, it is important to have the offline experience too," says Singh, whose own circumstances kept him from becoming a doctor which prompted him to launch Zindagi Foundation in the first place.
Now that the one obstacle, namely NEET, has been overcome, next comes the issue of their fee payment. A fact that Singh is very well aware of. Hence, efforts to gather donations have already begun. California's Saloni Heart Foundation has agreed to sponsor the education of five students this year. They have several well-wishers and probable donors who are being approached as we speak.
Students tell it like it is
One year of self-study and then attempting NEET did not work for Subash Chandra Behera. The second year, he had additional help from YouTube, but that did not help him clear NEET either. But when he was chosen as one of the beneficiaries of Zindagi Foundation, the youngster born in Gudipati, a village in the Jajpur district of Odisha, he knew he would be able to qualify. And he did, bagging all-India rank (AIR) 8489. "It was Physics that has always made me nervous and it is this subject that I worked the hardest on. I strengthen this weak area and solved as many Physics problems as I could," says the 19-year-old. He resolved to become a doctor so that he can, one fine day, help his own village which is devoid of even primary medical care facilities.
A maternal relative of Chandan Sankhua passed away due to cancer and did not even have a shot at a distant treatment. Now, this 20-year-old has bagged AIR 5,400 rank and is raring to be an oncologist. It was in his second attempt, when he joined Zindagi Foundation, that he was able to pass the medical entrance examination. "I finished all my studies near my village and my financial conditions kept me there. It was a friend who suggested that I check out the Zindagi Foundation's exam and that's how I found out about it," says Chandan, who was born in a village called Tukuna which is in Keonjhar district of Odisha. Since he had a small mobile phone, a smartphone was arranged and he was able to join in on the online classes.