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Oldest student: 98-year-old receives master’s degree from Nalanda varsity

Raj Kumar Vaish was awarded a masters degree in economics by Meghalaya Governor Ganga Prasad at the convocation function of NOU, Patna

education Updated: Dec 28, 2017 12:08 IST
Nalanda Open University,Patna Nalanda Open University,Raj Kumar Vaish
Raj Kumar Vaish (third from left) receives his degree at the Nalanda Open University Convocation.(HT Photo)

Patna It’s no mean achievement. A 98-year-old student has been awarded a postgraduate degree at the 12th annual convocation of Nalanda Open University (NOU) here on Tuesday.

Raj Kumar Vaish received a master’s degree in economics by Meghalaya governor Ganga Prasad at the convocation function.

And that is the reason why Nalanda Open University (NOU), Vaish’s alma mater, now proposes to set up a gallery in its library displaying his answer books and other examination-related papers.

“We are about to place a proposal for approval by the university’s statutory committees for exhibiting answer books of Vaish, who got admitted to NOU two years back, passed the MA economics examination, and received his degree on Tuesday,” said vice chancellor (VC) RK Sinha on Wednesday.

“On the basis of information gathered by us, Vaish is the first student of the country who successfully completed his university course at the age of 98”, he said.

“He is a source of inspiration for all generations to come. For this university, in particular, Vaish would be seen as a trendsetter,” said the VC.

NOU registrar SP Sinha said photocopies of his answer books proposed for display would not only reflect his merit, handwriting and way of expression, but also his physical and mental alertness while writing 16 papers in the examination hall.

It was in September this year that a team of university officers, headed by Sinha, went to Vaish’s residence and handed over to him his MA examination mark sheet.

Vaish had graduated from Agra University in 1938 and followed it up with an LLB in 1940. He served as law officer in Christian Mica Industry, Koderma (now in Jharkhand) and retired from service in 1981.

His son Santosh Kumar had been a teacher in civil engineering at the erstwhile Bihar College of Engineering (now National Institute of Technology, Patna). Vaish’s daughter-in-law Bharti S Kumar, too, is a retired professor of history, Patna University.

The award of MA degree is not the end of Vaish’s educational journey.

Kumar said his father was a bit disappointed as he had secured a second division. “Had he taken the examination a few years back, he would have passed in a first class,” Kumar said.

“Now I want to write articles on socioeconomic issues concerning the common man,” Vaish told HT. “The first topic that I plan to write on is the plight of non-pensioners who have been hit hard by a steep decline in the rate of interest on their life time savings kept in fixed deposit with different banks,” he said.

“While the cost of medical bills keep rising, senior citizens find it hard to reconcile with shrinking bank interest. Why do our planners ignore them?” he wondered.

Poverty is another concern.

“When I see ragpickers braving the cold and picking up waste on the streets, I feel disturbed...and wonder where lies the fault in our economic planning,” he said.

First Published: Dec 27, 2017 13:39 IST