Prerna’s death means end of my dreams, says mentor of Chandigarh’s child rights ambassador
When Prerna was in Class 1, her teacher Neelam Sharma realised she had a student with extraordinary capabilities in her hands.
From that day onwards, this junior basic teacher (JBT) made it the aim of her life to support Prerna, a 100% visually-impaired student of Government Model Senior Secondary School, Dhanas, who was appointed the brand ambassador of UT education department and Chandigarh Commission for Protection of Child Rights (CCPCR).
When she grew up, she would become an Indian Administrative Services (IAS) officer, Neelam had solemnly vowed.
But it was not to be.
Little Prerna, only 13-year-old, lost her life on Sunday to organ failure after a bout of jaundice. For her week-long treatment at the Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research, Government Multi-Specialty Hospital, Sector 16, and a private hospital in Sector 19, all expenses of around ₹1.5 lakh were borne by Neelam.
“She left the journey incomplete,” said a sobbing Neelam.
Principal of GMSSS-Dhanas Seema Rani said, “Neelam madam is a very good teacher. When she noticed Prerna’s talent, she started encouraging her. It was in Class 2 that she introduced Prerna to public speaking for the first time.”
Seema said that Neelam would go above and beyond to help Prerna with studies, even after school: “She never said no to help this child. From helping her financially to filling out forms for entry into competitions, Neelam was always there for her.”
In 2018, Prerna was awarded ‘Outstanding creative child with disabilities’ by the ministry of social justice and empowerment in Delhi. Neelam had helped her fill out the performa and forms.
Reminiscing her time with the child, Neelam said, “Prerna was excellent with oral recitation but she was very shy. I would make her comfortable, make her sit in my lap and recite a poem daily. We used to practise four lines every day and finally, in Class 2, she recited a poem for full five minutes on August 15!”
“I always thought I will never disclose the efforts I put in with Prerna till she achieves her goal of becoming an IAS officer. All that money spent was nothing because she had a long way to go. If only she had survived...”
Prerna’s father Dalip Kumar, who works in a private firm, and her mother Hem Lata, a homemaker, were inconsolable. Though Prerna had five other sisters, she was never a burden: “We never felt financially constrained because of her teachers. During the entire course of treatment, her teacher was there.”