Once a teaseller, Odisha man helps underprivileged students crack NEET
Results of the coveted National Eligibility Cum Entrance Test (NEET) 2019 came out last week and almost 8 lakh candidates cleared the medical entrance exam. However, it was a group of 14 underprivileged students from Odisha who stole the show. The students cracked the examinations despite all odds, under the tutelage of Ajay Bahadur Singh, a teacher who failed to become a doctor himself.
Singh, 47, established the Zindagi Foundation in 2017, which helps students from underprivileged background achieve their dream to become doctors. Zindagi helped 18 students clear NEET and 12 of them enrolled in medical colleges across Odisha, Singh told ANI. "This year I taught 14 students and they all cleared NEET," he said. So, despite his talent, why did Singh fail to become a doctor?
Growing up, Singh aspired to become a doctor, however, his dreams were crushed when his father's health deteriorated. Singh's father, who was an engineer, needed a kidney transplant, and the family had to sell their property to manage expenses. Hence, Singh couldn't pursue higher education.
"I always wanted to be a doctor and I was preparing for it," he told ANI, "But studies suffered due to father's kidney failure." "I started by selling tea and syrup. After completing intermediate education, I used to sell soda-making machines. I gave tuitions as well to complete my education," he added. Singh managed to put himself through college and graduate from Sociology Honors.
Singh soon overcame his financial crisis, but his experience left him determined to fulfill the dreams of other students in need. "I am now in a good condition, I think I should find helpless students who cannot afford to pay and help them," he said, adding that Zindagi bears coaching expenses of medical entrance exam aspirants, and also their food and accommodation.
Singh said he was inspired by acclaimed mathematician and educationalist Anand Kumar, whose Super 30 program gives talented students from underprivileged backgrounds the boost to crack the Joint Entrance Examination (JEE) and enroll in Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) since 2002.
Zindagi's Krishna Mohanty, attained 573 marks (all-India Rank 15,295) in NEET 2019 and got into a government medical college. Her father, a rajmistri (mason), died when she was in Class-VI. Ever since, her mother sells pithas at Bhubaneswar's ISCON temple. Meanwhile, till date, Aniruddha Nayak, from Narasinghpur area of Cuttack district, remains Zindagi's star with AIR 5,662 in NEET 2018.
Additionally, Abanikant Swain (8,582), Sailendu Raut (9,196), Sai Gourav Mohapatra (10,558), Sudhansu Priyadarshini (14,831), Krishna Mohanty (15,295), Omm Singh (16,501), Amiya Ranjan Das (25,361), Rutuparna Malla (35,265), Jaya Prakash Panda (36,900), Manas Ranjan Mishra (47,571), Rakesh Kumar Rout (63,502), Happin Pattanayak (65,010) and Namrata Panda (72,778) qualified the exam. Singh said, as 'gurudakshina,' he wants his students to treat the poor free of cost.
Results of NEET 2019 were announced on June 5 by the National Testing Agency (NTA). Reportedly, out of the 14 lakh students who appeared for the exams, 7,95,031 candidates living in India qualified, along with 315 foreign nationals, 1,209 NRIs, 441 candidates holding OCI (Overseas Citizenship of India), and 46 PIOs (Persons of Indian Origin). In Odisha, 30,000 NEET candidates qualified the exam.