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Twenty-three-year-old Gokila is another beacon of hope and exemplifies the can-do spirit of TN youth today. Social marginalization and poverty did not stop this young woman from pursuing her dreams of becoming a doctor. She found encouragement not only in her parents but also in the teachers and the headmistress of the government school where she studied.

Now she is the first graduate in her family consisting of parents Ponnazhaku, a tailor, and Panjavarnam, a home-maker, both of whom had to drop out of school. Her elder brother, however, holds a diploma in electrical engineering, and elder sister has completed high school.

Sharing her success with, Gokila said she had her primary schooling in her grandmother’s village Athiyooth and studied from Class 5 to 10 in the government school at Uppur.  Growing up in a remote part of the state with no access to electricity at home, nor tuition and coaching facilities, little Gokila made the most of her time at school to complete her lessons. And it was her headmistress Lourdes Josephine who encouraged her to set herself the goal of pursuing medicine.

“The cut-off for medical course was 195.75. As there was no NEET at that time, I got a seat in the Madurai Government Medical College on the basis of my Plus-Two score”

After getting the distinction of being the school’s second topper in Class 10 exams, with the help and support of her headmistress, she got an opportunity to join the residential Elite School (now government model school) in Ramanathapuram, launched by the then Collector K. Nandakumar, for bright but underprivileged students.

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Recalling the moral support provided by the school teachers such as Navaneetha Krishnan, Arumugham, Gokila also spoke of the motivational speeches that Nandakumar delivered on the school campus now and then.

Gokila with her family

Despite her diligence, the gods had other plans. Ahead of her Class 12 exams, Gokila was down with an attack of measles that threatened to derail her hopes.

Gokila’s next step is to pursue a PG course in surgery. In order to take NEET, she is right now preparing at home

“It was my father who accompanied me during the 20-km travel from Devipattinam, our native place, to Ramanathapuram on the days of the exams. As I had already studied the lessons well, I was able to write the exam confidently. Yet my disease took a toll on me, preventing me from scoring centum in maths paper. I had to be content with 186 out of 200.

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Though I knew answers to all questions in the paper, I could not write them fast enough so I had to omit two questions.  However, with my teachers consoling me on this count, I scored 198 in biology, 191 in physics and 196 in chemistry and my overall score was 1119 out of 1200. The cut-off for medical course was 195.75. As there was no NEET at that time, I got a seat in the Madurai Government Medical College on the basis of my Class 12 score,” she said.

Even after Gokila joined the medical course, she faced two major challenges — financing the four-year MBBS course and English as the medium of instruction. In the first year, the government scholarship bailed her out financially. But it was not available in the second year. So she had to borrow the money. But in the third and fourth year, she again got government help.  The government stipend she got in the fifth year helped her finish the course successfully in June this year.

Though she faced hiccups initially, understanding the lessons taught in English, over time she picked up, thanks to a good support from her classmates.

A role model and path-breaker, Gokila wants to pursue a PG in surgery and is preparing for the NEET exams, she said, hope and perseverance writ large on her face.

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