May 31, 2020
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Pages From An Old School Text

For over 30 years, hostel students at a Calcutta college have supported and run an evening school for the poor

Pages From An Old School Text
Pages From An Old School Text
As head mistress of a charitable evening school, for children from poor families of Park Circus in Calcutta, Suchismita Mitra has quite a job on hand. Helping the kids with their tutorial-style lessons, preparing the roster for teachers, planning exam schedules, even organising events like the annual sports day and maintaining records. In addition, she has her own studies—Suchismita is a first year degree student at Lady Brabourne College.

The ‘school’ that she presides over is a venture of the college and run by the hostel students. The school—it doesn’t have a formal name—started in the late ’70s and has about 40-odd students who study in regular schools. Classes are held on the ground floor of the hostel from 5 pm to 6.30 pm five days a week. Students up to Class X are welcome to enrol.

Not only is it free, notebooks and stationery are provided to needy students from the college students’ union fund. After class, the children are provided supper—bread-butter and fruits or puri-sabzi and, on special occasions, fried rice or biriyani. The hostelers bear the cost of the dinner. "We help the students of our college run this ‘school’ but it’s largely their baby. They’re very happy teaching the kids and running the school," the hostel’s assistant superintendent Natasha Dasgupta told Outlook. She heads the statistics department at the college and recalls that the ‘school’ existed when she was a student of the same college.

"The kids are obedient and want to learn. We have no problems with them. Some are very bright, but most need extra care and that’s what we provide," says Sananda Saha, the school’s assistant headmistress who is also in her first year of undergraduate course in Bengali. All 207 hostelers chip in whenever required. "They’re part of the extended Lady Brabourne family," says Sucheta Home Roy, the hostel superintendent.

The poor students, too, are happy to attend the evening school. "This is a great help. I owe my success in class to this evening school," says Shabana Khatun, a class five student. Her cousin Zeenat Parveen, a third standard student, says the teachers are very helpful.

"We use innovative means to teach, like story-telling, drawing, songs and games," says Suchismita. Surajit Dey, a class VII student at a regular school nearby, vouches for that: "I learn more here than at my school. The teachers here are better." Bibek Kumar Bari, a class VI student, says, "learning is fun here". He even convinced his parents to send his brother with him for the evening classes.

The hostel students meet the expenses of the school, but help is always welcome.

Contact Lady Brabourne College Hostel, P 1/2 Suhrawardi Avenue, Park Circus, Calcutta—700017. Tel: 22448120

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