On March 19, five days before India first went into lockdown to prevent the spread of COVID-19, a couple in Keralaâ€™s Malappuram had news to rejoice. Results of the class 12 equivalency exams they had taken had come, and they had both scored well. But it is four months later that their celebration peaked - their son, who is a class 12 student, also passed his class 12 exams with good grades.
In mid-July, Muhammed Musthafa, his wife Nusaiba, and their son Shammas celebrated graduating higher secondary school together as a family.
Musthafa, a 43-year-old businessman, had gone to the Gulf as a lad shortly after finishing his Class 10 in search of a job. He worked for years at a veterinary clinic in Abu Dhabi. Years ago, on one of his visits to the hometown, he got married to Nusaiba, who is in her late 30s now. She joined him in the Gulf and stayed there, all the while regretting not completing Class 12.
When they returned home for good five years ago, Musthafa, remembering Nusaibaâ€™s desire, started enquiring at several centres about ways to write Class 12 exams. Nothing worked out until one day, he saw a notice board at the Mangala panchayat office about the Kerala Literacy Missionâ€™s equivalency exams. Both he and Nusaiba decided to enrol for the Sunday classes that gave them time to study during the weekend and in the late evenings when business hours were over.
â€śBoth of us are working in the business together, so thatâ€™s all the time we could take out for studying. Our son was excited to know about our enrollment. He would help us with our doubts and ask us questions too. He has always been good at studies, getting A+ in all subjects both in Class 10 and 11. This year, when there was a break in classes due to the coronavirus, there was some difficulty and he missed A+ only for one subject by three marksâ€ť says a proud Musthafa.
Their efforts paid off and the parents ultimately did well in their exams. Nusaiba got more than 80% and Musthafa scored first class too â€“ the trips away for business had kept him away from classes on several Sundays, he says, explaining why he couldnâ€™t score more.
The family also enjoyed preparing for the exams together. â€śOnce, we even discovered that we have a common teacher. Naser sir, who taught us accountancy, was also our sonâ€™s teacher at a tuition centre.â€ť
The Sunday classes were fun for the couple with people of all ages attending too. â€śWe also had cultural programmes like in regular schools. I participated in menâ€™s oppana (a traditional dance form) and speech competition and came second in the latter. My wifeâ€™s team got first for womenâ€™s oppana at the [coaching] centre,â€ť Musthafa says.
Nusaiba, Musthafa and Shammas have chosen the commerce stream to study further. Shammas has already applied for Chartered Accountancy. Nusaiba and Musthafa would like to do Bachelors in Commerce after this. The couple have two more children â€“ a son in Class 8 and a daughter in Class 4.
â€śWe were initially trying to keep it within the family, the story about my wife and I writing the exam. Since we are doing it so late, we were slightly embarrassed about it,â€ť Musthafa says. â€śBut we understood there was no reason to be embarrassed when all the calls that came were congratulatory. We even managed to inspire some people who realised that it is never too late to study more.â€ť
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