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The world of stethoscopes and medical wards is a far cry from the rough seas and uncertain catch of a fishermen village in Ramanathapuram, Tamil Nadu. And yet in a success story, it is a distance bridged by hard work and determination by 23-year-old Surjith.

His father Munisamy, a fisherman, despite having little access to education dreamt of change for his children. These dreams have seen all three of his children break barriers and achieve success in higher education. While Surjith made it through the gruelling medical course, his two elder sisters — Jayanthi and Jayashanthi — have post-graduate degrees in Biochemistry and Mathematics respectively. Jayashanthi has also completed her B.Ed. Originally hailing from Sayalkudi in the backward Ramanathapuram district, the family now lives in a pucca, tile-roofed house in Rameswaram.

Helping Surjith to achieve his and his father’s dream was a thoughtful scheme set up by former Collector of Ramanathapuram K Nandakumar. Under the scheme, an Elite School (now government model school) was exclusively set up for the best students from government schools.

Sharing his success story rocked by trials and tribulations with inmathi.com, Surjith said, “I studied from class 1 to 10 in Tamil medium in the Rameswaram government school three km from my home.  My family being indigent, bus was the only mode of transport for me.  When I was in the class 8, my father who had gone fishing was captured by the Sri Lankan Navy and returned only after three months. At that time we found it very difficult to keep off poverty.  After the incident, my father gave up fishing and set up a petty shop to earn his livelihood.  I used to take care of the shop in the evening after I returned from school.  However, my father and mother Saraswati, a home-maker, stood their ground in providing higher education to my sisters and me.”

Helping Surjith to achieve his and his father’s dream was a thoughtful scheme set up by former Collector of Ramanathapuram K Nandakumar. Under the scheme, an Elite School (now government model school) was exclusively set up for the best students from government schools

Amidst the typical fishermen family background of Tamil Nadu and busy domestic chores, the three children used to get up at 5 a.m. for studies and continued learning after school hours till 11 pm. Surjith scored 468 out of 500 marks in his 10th class exams in 2014, earning the distinction of being the second topper in the school. It was this distinction which got him a seat in the residential Elite School where he could pursue further studies in an atmosphere of freedom from the domestic worries.

Also Read: Poverty forced him out of school, determination made him doctor

“To become a doctor was, in fact, not at all my dream as I had thought it was beyond the reach of the poor people like us till I joined the Elite School where I studied maths, physics, chemistry and biology. It was the encouragement and motivation that my teachers – Navaneetha Krishnan, Arumugam, Prabhakaran, Saravanan and warden Ekambaram – that gave me in ample confidence to think of pursuing medicine.  If I had not joined the Elite School, it is doubtful if I would have become a doctor,” said Surjith his eyes brimming with tears of gratitude.

Surjith with his family and education coordinator Navaneethakrishnan

After scoring 1136 out of 1200 in the Plus-Two exam with a centum in maths, he met the cut-off mark of 195.75 and got a seat in the Madurai Government Medical College.

Nonetheless, it was not a complete light at the end of the tunnel for his family felt daunted and depressed at the cost of medical education by the medical education with its costliness.  “That hiccup too was resolved thanks to the timely help rendered by Ramanathapuram engineer Gandhi, the government scholarship for four years and the stipend given in the fifth year,” recalls Surjith.

Surjith, now and then, is visiting government model schools in Chennai, Tiruchi and Perambalur for having motivation sessions with the students

As Surjith had pursued schooling mainly in Tamil medium, he found it initially difficult to pick up lessons taught in English.  “However, with empathetic teachers who went all out to make students like us understand lessons thoroughly and with more skilled classmates tutoring me, I adapted to the classroom learning in English over time. Particularly, I cannot forget the help provided by Professor of Physiology Ethiyas. Finally, I finished MBBS in May this year. Right now I am working in a private hospital in Madurai,” he said.

Also Read: Pandemic and poverty rob poor students in Tamil Nadu of school certificates

Surjith, now and then, is visiting government model schools in Chennai, Tiruchi and Perambalur for having motivation sessions with the students.

While waiting for a government announcement on employment in government hospitals, Surjith is also preparing to take NEET for pursuing PG in surgery. As he has succeeded, braving the heaviest odds till now, he is confident of translating his dreams into reality. Coming from a fishermen family of Tamil Nadu was no insurmountable barrier of him. Hence the confidence.


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