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As a Covid medical officer at Madurai Rajaji Government Hospital, Dr Krishnaveni is very busy. She is also preparing for the PG NEET examinations, hoping to pursue higher studies in psychiatry or dermatology. On the personal front, the young doctor is looking for a house in Madurai so that her mom can finally have a comfortable life, after all the many years of blood, sweat and tears she put in to educate her girl and boy.
Life was not easy for Krishnaveni and her brother Arun Kumar since their mother Pandiammal, a single parent, had to work on construction sites in Paramakudi town to make a living. With her meagre wages, she had to run the family and also pay for the children’s education. It was in this context that the Elite school run by Ramanathapuram district administration made all the difference in helping Krishnaveni to become a doctor.
When the present Commissioner of School Education K Nandakumar was the district collector of Ramanathapuram, he founded an Elite School—top scorers in Class 10 from government schools would be selected and trained by the best teachers from the district in a residential set up. The objective of the programme was to groom students to secure high marks in Class 12 so that they would go on to become engineers and doctors.
Initially, Krishnaveni did not get a placement at the Elite school. She had not placed among the three ranked persons from her government school. But it seems like her destiny was to become a doctor ultimately. It so happened that all three students selected from her school to the Elite institution dropped out, and so she persuaded her school authorities to get her a spot. Finally, she was accepted.
When the present Commissioner of School Education K Nandakumar was the district collector of Ramanathapuram, he founded an Elite School—top scorers in Class 10 from government schools would be selected and trained by the best teachers from the district in a residential set up.
Krishnaveni’s family hails from Pethanenthal in Ramanathapuram district. She studied in her village till Class 3 after which the family moved to Paramakudi. From class 6, she went to the Paramakudi Girls Hr Sec School. Although she never had the means to attend tuitions while studying, she went on to score 444 out of 500 in class 10.
It was around this time that the Elite School was being set up, and school principals announced the scheme in their schools. The minimum cut off to join the school was 450 out of 500 marks. So, Krishnaveni did not make the cut at first. But all three students from her school who had joined the Elite School soon dropped out. They preferred to continue Class 11 and Class 12 in the Paramakudi Girls Hr Sec School.
Headmaster Jayakumar then addressed the Class 11 students again to find out if anyone else was interested. Krishnaveni was more than willing but the headmaster was hesitant as she did not have the cut-off. But because she was insistent, he approached the coordinator of the school recommending Krishnaveni, and she was selected.
In the beginning, the Elite School functioned in the Municipal Girls Hr Sec School at Ramanathapuram. The school provided the students with all the books and stationery. Food and accommodation were also arranged. “I selected the pure science group. The best teachers of the district coached us and there would be tests every day. I knew that it was my best chance and gave it my all,” Krishnaveni, who is now working as a doctor in Madurai, recalls.
Collector Nandakumar would visit the school every week and interact with the students and teachers. He would also invite them to his office. Krishnaveni said that 34 girls and 6 boys studied in the Elite school in all.
In class 12, Krishnaveni scored 1,078 marks out of 1,200 with a centum in Mathematics, 195 in physics and biology and 194 in chemistry. The cut off for engineering admission was 197.75 while the cut off for medical was 194.25. Though she was eligible for both engineering and medical seats, Nandakumar urged her to study medicine and become a doctor. “I too was interested in MBBS and I got a seat in Madurai Medical College,” says Krishnaveni.
Although she got the MBBS seat, the financial requirement of educating her to become a doctor was too much for the family to bear. At this time, the Life Insurance Corporation of India came forward to sponsor her hostel fees of Rs 17,000. Though Krishnaveni earned a scholarship which took care of her tuition, her mother Pandiammal had to struggle to pay for the other expenses of her daughter studying in Madurai. “She would borrow Rs 20,000 every year for my expenses and work all through the year to repay the loan,” Krishnaveni says. “Next year, she would borrow again.”
Soon, her brother Arun Kumar who had completed his B Sc, decided to drop his plan of pursuing higher studies. He took up a job in Chennai and began sending Rs 3,000 a month for the expenses of his sister, so that she could fulfil her dream of becoming a doctor.
Though Krishnaveni earned a scholarship which took care of her tuition, her mother Pandiammal had to struggle to pay for the other expenses of her daughter studying in Madurai. “She would borrow Rs 20,000 every year for my expenses and work all through the year to repay the loan,” Krishnaveni says. “Next year, she would borrow again.”
Having studied in Tamil medium, Krishnaveni found the English instruction at the medical college difficult during the initial days. She used to work hard to understand the lessons. It was not easy, but she graduated last year and became a doctor. Krishnaveni was then selected as a Covid-19 Medical Officer when the government started appointing doctors on temporary rolls to fight the pandemic. If she gets a permanent government job, Krishnaveni prefers to be placed in the villages somewhere near her home town.
Krishnaveni is the first student from Paramakudi Girls Hr Sec School to become a doctor. Manikandan, another student from the Elite School, has got an MBBS seat in Stanley Medical College, Chennai. Krishnaveni says that they would have never made it to medical college if the concept of Elite School was not introduced by Nandakumar IAS. “We are thankful to our former collector and all the teachers who worked really hard to make us succeed,” she says.
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