Greeshma aspires to be a doctor and many people, including renowned cardiac surgeon Devi Shetty, have offered to provide financial aid.

Unable to afford fees denied hall ticket Karnataka class 10 topper fought the odds
news Education Thursday, October 14, 2021 - 18:44

Greeshma Nayak, a class 10 student from Karnataka’s Tumakuru district, made headlines for scoring - 95.8% - the highest marks in supplementary exams in the state. And while this is a significant feat, it becomes all the more compelling in Greeshma’s case when you learn that the only means available to her to prepare for her exams were self-study and help from her elder sister, a BSc student. The daughter of a farmer and a homemaker, the 16-year-old could not attend online classes as her family wasn't able to pay her school fee due to financial constraints brought by the pandemic.

A curious child, Greeshma tells TNM that as far back as she can remember, she always had a thirst for knowledge, and learning about new things. This translated into her passion for studies as well. “When I hold books, I feel an inexplicable excitement about learning new things… like reading science and history, or doing any mathematical calculations. When I see any mathematical equation, I am fascinated by how mathematicians derived all those formulas such a long time ago. I’m very curious about all of this,” she says.

Her family’s financial struggle began when Greeshma was in class 9, and her father, Narsimha Murthy, couldn't pay the school fees. He asked her school to allow him some time to arrange the same. However, the situation only got worse when the pandemic struck. 

Greeshma studied in Alva’s English Medium High School in Moodbidri which is a part of the reputed Alva’s Education Foundation. Mohan Alva is the chairman of the Alva’s Education Foundation and it was founded by him. Mohan Alva is a very well known educationist in the state and his foundation owns several big institutions in Dakshina Kannada district including the English Medium High School in Moodbidri. Alva’s school had a fee of Rs 1 lakh for class 9, and Narasimha had been able to pay Rs 35,000. So, she was not re-admitted to the school next year for class 10. 

“The school had started running the classes much before the government had allowed them to. When we came to know that classes had started, we asked the school about whether the classes started and that they didn't provide any information on it in September 2020,” Narasimha alleges. “The school said that it's not their fault that we didn't know that classes had started. They also said that we had to pay the pending dues from class 9 fees, and also pay the fees for class 10 to attend the online classes. We made several requests to the headmistress and even to the chairman but they were not even ready to speak. All they said was that we had to pay the fees.” 

When Greeshma couldn't attend online classes in her school, she started studying the core subjects (science, social science and mathematics) on her own in September 2020. Greeshma’s sister, who was also at home, due to the closure of colleges amid the pandemic, helped. “My sister started teaching me one chapter from science and maths for an hour daily. Also, I wrote notes as I would in school,” she says. Greeshma also studied her language subjects on her own.

Callousness of the school

However, despite her efforts, Greeshma was not able to take exams as the school had taken Greeshma off the rolls for non-payment of fees. Greeshma’s name had not been registered for her class 10 exams by the school. “I was promoted from class ninth but my admission had not been done for class 10 and my name was not registered at the SSLC board for the exams. When exams were approaching, I went to the Block Education Officer’s office to enquire about where to write my exams as the government had allowed students to write exams in places where they live instead of travelling far. There I found out that my name had not been registered. I was very upset after this,” she says.

Narasimha Murthy said that the school hadn't even informed them about Greeshma’s name not being registered with the SSLC due to non-payment of fees. “They didn't even make a phone call. If we were at least warned, we could have done something. We could have even gotten her admitted to some other government school. Couldn't they have done this as human decency?” he questions.

Not wanting to give up, Greeshma tried sending emails to several officials including the then Education Minister, Suresh Kumar, describing her situation and seeking help. However, she says she was quickly losing hope of being able to write exams, which affected her mental health as well. One day, Suresh Kumar, having read Greeshma’s email, decided to visit her at her home. “Suresh Kumar visited our house at 6 am that day and said that they intended on holding another supplementary exam as there were many like me who had missed out on exams,” Greeshma recounts.

Following this, Greeshma said that Suresh Kumar helped mediate between her and the school and she was later able to go back to the Mangaluru Deputy Director of Public Instruction (DDPI) and register herself for the supplementary exam. She also said that two teachers from her school also accompanied her to the DDPI office and she had to only pay Rs 22 for the registration.

However, Greeshma and her mother had to give in writing that they will pay the fees before collecting her marksheet and transfer certificate (TC). Additionally, Narasimha Murthy said that during the registration, the school also demanded fees for class 10 despite Greeshma not having used even a single facility from the school that year.

Her father said, “She didn't go to school, they didn't do the registration for SSLC, they didn't even allow her to attend classes online and she couldn't write the main exam. Still, they asked for the class 10 fees. Her mother, who had been there during registration, refused to pay as they had not provided even a single facility to Greeshma. However, we had to give in writing that we will pay the class 9 fees before collecting the marksheet and TC.”

“This ordeal makes me think that only those who have the (financial) ability to give their kids education can do so. For those of us who don’t, should we simply not make them study at all? We don't really have the power to change the system and it doesn't rectify on its own also. What option do we really have?” Narasimha rues. “Is this injustice, oppression or a terrible system? Whom should I blame? The school will argue that it has invested money, and the government will ask me why I enrolled my child there instead of a government school. In this kind of situation what do I think?”

After Greeshma’s registration was done, she continued to study and finally went to Moodbidri on September 27 and September 29 to write the supplementary exam. However, according to her father, police showed up in front of the school where she was to write exams to record the statements of Greeshma and her mother as Alva’s High School had apparently complained against a local newspaper for writing about Greeshma’s struggle.

“Imagine the stress Greeshma would have been under seeing the police there when she was about to write her exam. Adults only would get scared, this is a child who travelled 420 km from her home with just her mother,” Narasimha Murthy points out.

Aspirations to be a doctor

Greeshma says she wants to become a doctor. “I want to take PCMB (Physics, Chemistry, Math and Biology) in PU (Pre-University) and later I want to clear the National Eligibility Entrance Test (NEET) and study MBBS. We are the most complex beings on earth. I’m very curious to read about the human body, chemistry etc,” she adds.

Seeing her determination, Greeshma says she has gotten offers from several people to sponsor her medical education if she clears NEET. Reportedly Dr Devi Shetty, a renowned cardiac surgeon, had offered to aid her education. “I don't have words to express my happiness but I'm extremely thankful to them. I was shocked when I heard about this. I want to score well in NEET and get a seat at a good college,” she says. 

Become a TNM Member for just Rs 999!
You can also support us with a one-time payment.