You may have often seen children being dropped off to school by their parents, but have you ever come across parents in school uniform, studying in the same class as their child?
Going against popular convention, the Mondals are doing exactly that at the Hazrapur high school in the Dhatala police station area of Nadia. Biplab Mondal, a student of Class 11, sits alongside his father, 41-year-old Balaram Mondal, while his mother Kalyani Mondal, 31, takes a seat in the aisle meant for girls in the same class.
The Mondals, residents of Uttar Patikabari in the Hanskhali police station area, were provided bicycles under the chief minister’s much-touted Sabuj Sathi scheme and use it every day to ride to school together.
Though classmates, the three are fierce competitors when it comes to studies — the trio is pursuing the Arts with Bengali, English, history, education, Sanskrit and philosophy.
“We compete among ourselves. I want to score more in the annual exams than my wife and son,” says Balaram.
Financial and social constraints had prevented Balaram and Kalyani from further pursuing their studies. Undeterred, however, the couple finally completed their Madhyamik exams (Class 10-level board) in 2013 and 2014 respectively.
“I lost my father early and had to drop out of school as we couldn’t make ends meet. But I never lost the urge to study. I want to go to college,” says Balaram, while his wife Kalyani says, “I was married when I was in Class 9, but was always willing to take up from where I left off.”
The family lives in a house made of mud and bamboos with a tin roof. Since arranging tuition for all three was beyond their means, two private tutors were hired for just Biplab. The young Mondal then teaches his parents whatever he learns from the tutors.
Balaram owns one and a half acres of land, where he cultivates vegetables. His daily routine usually includes tending to this small tract of land before school, though sometimes he has to work as a day labourer to augment his income. His wife, too, helps him with cultivation occasionally.
The two continued to work against all odds to pursue their studies, and have become an inspiration to others. But, it did not come easy for the couple. Getting admitted to the school took some cajoling, but after being convinced of their seriousness towards education, the school headmaster finally relented.
Kamalesh Majumder, a Sanskrit teacher at the school, said, “Biplab’s parents made a few visits to the school to get admitted. Our headmaster Sujit Kumar Hota admitted them in the school after he was convinced by their repeated visits and that they were really keen to study. We informed the Higher Secondary Education Council authorities too of the exceptional students and they were admitted according to the guidelines of the council.”
So, what is it like to have your parents as your classmates?
“My parents are like my friends. I am lucky to have got them as classmates. How many students in this world get this opportunity?” Biplab says.