At this unique coaching centre in Bengal’s village annual tuition fee is just Rs 2

Ramnagar, a remote hamlet at Ausgram in West Bengal’s east Burdwan district, suddenly rose to prominence last November after a retired schoolmaster of this village Sujit Chattopadhyay was nominated for the Padma Shri award.

That is when Sadai Fakirer Pathshala (Ever- Fakir’s classroom) at Ramnagar became a national attraction. The history behind this unique name is equally interesting. But before that some excerpts of the unique life of Sujit Chattopadhyay, who is popular in the area as either “Sadai Fakir” or Du Takar Master Moshai (The two-rupee teacher).

Over half a century back, Sujit Chattopadhyay, currently 78, joined the local Ramnagar Higher Secondary School as a teacher after completing his post- graduation in his early twenties rejecting the offers from a number of other schools located in the bustling urban belts of the state.

His logic was that schools in rural Bengal are more in need of teachers than those located in the urban belts.

As he retired at the age of 60 in 2004, he was quite worried on how to spend his retirement days since by then teaching had become his daily habit. “At this point of time, the concept of extension of service had not been introduced by the state school education department.

However, right at that point of time, three local girls from the tribal community approached me to teach them. I told them that I will teach you provided you pay me an annual fee of Re 1. They were so happy that they fixed my annual fee at Re 1 plus four chocolates. That was the beginning. Gradually more students started coming and in the course of these 18 years, there had been only one change in the fee structure that has been doubled to Rs 2,” Chattopadhyay said.

On an average 300 students study at the classroom located in the empty space adjacent to Chattopadhyay’s residence at Ramnagar. “I teach students of ninth and tenth standards in the secondary level, 11th and 12th standards in the higher secondary level and first year, second year and third year at the graduation level. The fee structure is same for all of them, he said and added that so far over 3,000 students have taken coaching at his classroom and almost 80 per cent of them were girl students, majority of whom were coming from the tribal community.

Chattopadhyay has his own logic for sticking to his paltry fee structure. “What for do I need more? My son is well settled as an officer in the state disaster management department. My daughter is married and settled. Whatever I have earned from my retirement benefits are enough for me and my wife, he added.

Then he revealed how his classroom assumed the unique name of Sadai Fakirer Pathshala (Ever- Fakir’s classroom). “After a couple of years that I have started this coaching, some of my students told me that I could manage with a paltry annual fee which was Re 1 then, since I already have enough wealth in my possession. I tried to convince them that they were wrong. But it seemed that my students really did not believe that. There came the idea about the name to give a message that Fakir’s never possess huge material wealth,” he said.

Even after being awarded Padma Shri, the award is of little or no value for him. “My actual success lies in the successes of my students passing out of this Sadai Fakirer Pathshala. You will be happy to know that some of my current students are actively involved in the battle against thalassemia in the area and they have also involved me in this noble work,” he said.

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