For over two-days now, 22-year-old Prajwal and 19-year-old Pratheeksha, who are generally reserved and shy, are quite overwhelmed by the repeated calls and congratulatory messages from relatives and friends. The siblings from Borgalgudde, Nitte village in Karkala, who have been unable to walk since childhood due to a genetic disorder, cleared their Karnataka Pre-University exams on Monday, against all odds. While Prajwal scored 51%, Pratheeksha scored 49%, both in the Arts stream.
The siblings are a little disappointed that they could not secure 70% marks, like they did in their Matriculation exams; their parents, however, are elated. "They have passed their test, and that is a big achievement for all of us. First Class, Second Class etc does not matter. My children cleared their test and they can pursue their dreams now,” says 47-year-old Shekar Salian, Prajwal and Pratheeksha’s father.
Challenges on the way
For these home-tutored pupils, it was not just the 'test' that came with challenges, but the whole concept of adapting to the examination environment. They usually stay at home and have limited interactions with outsiders – they were too shy to speak to this reporter, too. And they were intimidated by the presence of so many other students, besides invigilation squad, and a stringent environment, during their exams.
The siblings had to discontinue their regular schooling when they were in Class 8, as their parents could not arrange for their transport to school.
"We could not afford those things,” Shekar says. “A few years ago, I had to quit my job due to health issues, and my wife Jyothi rolls beedis. Since our financial condition is a bit tough, we are trying to make ends meet," he adds.
For the last several years, these students were taught at home by teachers Ganesh, Akshatha and Rajani for seven-hours a day. While Ganesh taught them Economics, English and Political Science, Akshata and Rajani taught them Kannada, History and other subjects.
During their Matriculation exams, the three teachers were allowed to assist Prajwal and Pratheeksha with writing their exams. However, at the PU board, the students were not allowed assistance of writers of their choice.
While Shekar does not blame the system, he enumerates the problems the family faced in order to comply with it. "During the Matriculation exams, their regular tutors were allowed to write for them. But this time the PU board was stringent with the condition. The two of them have communication issues with new people – especially Prajwal, who stammers; but our did not gain any us favour," Shekar says.
Moreover, the PU Board had laid an additional rider that the assistants must be at least a year junior in their academics, and should not be from the Arts background.
The family had a tough time looking for the right candidates, as most of the students had just finished their own exams and were fatigued. The parents wandered to several colleges, and asked their relatives too, but their requests were turned-down or faced a dead-end.
Highlighting the plight of the family, a local TV channel even relayed a public appeal. Finally, two students – a boy and a girl from the neighbourhood – agreed.
"To avoid confusion, we told the families right at the beginning that besides giving them our best wishes, we won’t be able to financially compensate them," Jyothi says.
For over a week, the two students spent an hour each with Prajwal and Prateeksha to understand their language and expression. Ultimately, it was smooth sailing for the siblings and the writers.
While the duo will continue to pursue a degree in the Arts stream, the family is looking for physiotherapy and other treatments to enable them to live their life independently. "Both our children are highly intelligent and we are certain that they can do something in life. But we do not want them to be confined to a wheelchair for the rest of their lives, for which we are making our best effort,” Shekar says.
In a heart-warming gesture, the local community in Borgalgudde at Nitte village have raised a sum of Rs 11 lakh through well wishers and friends on social media for the future of these students.
"Most of them tell me that I should enroll them in computer courses, so that they can be self-sustained. Let’s see what my kids want," Jyothi says.
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