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At the recent Madras Medical College convocation, R Selvapandi became the first doctor from Maravaikkudi village in Ramanathapuram district of Tamil Nadu.

Among the Ramanathapuram Elite School students who made good is R Selvapandi. Born in a Scheduled Caste family, Selvapandi did well in school and studied in Elite School and then finished his MBBS. He is the first graduate from his family.

Selvapandi who hails from Maravaikkudi in Sayalkudi recounts his story.

Selvapandi’s family lives in a tiled-roof house in Maravaikkudi. His father tends to cattle and brings home Rs 5,000 a month on that. His mother would work in the 100-day job scheme. When the jobdays were not available she would try to earn money cutting and selling firewood. Neither are literate, he says.

Selvapandi’s brother Kaviprakash studied diploma in mechanical engineering and is working in Coimbatore. Selvapandi studied up to Class 10 in Tamil medium at a school in Idhampadal between Erwadi and Sikkal. He stayed with his grandmother to study there. He had no support in terms of private tuition yet scored 478 out of 500 in Class 10 in 2014.

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Until then Selvapandi had not thought about his future. He had not thought about what he was going to take up. His classmates who did well in Class 10 joined a government aided higher secondary school. His school principal asked him if he would like to study at the Elite School and he said he would.

At the Elite School, Selvapandi realized that instead of getting first rank he was getting 25th rank or 30th rank in a class of 37. All were bright students. For nearly a year and half, Physics and Chemistry were a challenge. Only well into Class 12 did he find he was coming to grips with the subjects. Selvapandi’s rank had by then improved to fifth.

In his free time, Dr Selvapandi visits government schools in the state to encourage students and give them confidence regarding opportunities

Selvapandi recalls his teachers were keenly interested to teach students. Then district collector Nandakumar, whose initiative the Elite School was, would visit periodically to address any problems students faced. He would motivate them and buy them dates and peanut candy to encourage them.

Only at Elite School did he come to know what opportunities life gave him. If he studied well he could also become doctor or engineer, he realized.

In 2016, he passed Class 12, scoring 1157 out of 1,200. He scored centum in Maths, and 198 in Biology and Chemistry. He scored 196 in Physics. His medical cut-off was 197.5. There was no NEET that year.

When the rank list was drawn up, he knew he would get medical admission but he had no idea how he was going to fund his studies. Students who could get medicine were asked to come to school but Selvapandi didn’t go since he didn’t know how he would find the money.

When Elite School coordinator Navaneethakrishnan  who was also his Maths teacher came to know about his situation he approached many people to support him. A doctor in Tuticorin, a theater owner in Ramanathapuram, and a school principal in Karaikudi were others came forward to help him silently. They asked that they remain anonymous. A doctor couple whom his Zoology teacher knew got him clothes. Selvapandi thanks his lucky stars for studying at Elite School without which he wouldn’t have become a doctor.

When he joined medical college, students were asked who studied in Tamil medium. Some 25 students raised their hands. The students were told that all classes were going to be in English and that it would be difficult at first. But as time went by they would be able to cope and do well.

In 2016, he passed Class 12, scoring 1157 out of 1,200. He scored centum in Maths, and 198 in Biology and Chemistry. He scored 196 in Physics. His medical cut-off was 197.5.

Selvapandi went through a similar experience. His classmates helped him understand the subjects.

In his first year, he got support from the Jayalalithaa Charitable Trust. Second year he couldn’t get it since she had died. Navaneethakrishnan helped him instead. The family took a loan, too.

For third and fourth year, he again got support from the Jayalalithaa Trust. Stipend helped him get by in the final year internship. Last week, he got his degree at the Madras Medical College convocation.

Dr Selvapandi wants to join government service as doctor and serve his village in Ramanathapuram district of Tamil Nadu. He wants to do PG, too.

When he is free Dr Selvapandi visits government schools across the state to encourage students there to study well. He tries to give them confidence and motivate them regarding opportunities. As the first doctor from a village in a remote area of Tamil Nadu, he feels he owes it to them.

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