His mother toils in a Sylhet tea garden for eight hours only to earn Tk 69 a day. His father earns a little as a bicycle mechanic.
That is the scenario of Bijoy Rudra Paul, a very ordinary employee of the Land Office, who has a nine-member family to support.
Still he thinks about a bigger family - his community. From his little earnings from office and tuition jobs, he arranges especial examinations for students and offer scholarships to top scorers.
He lives with a dream that nobody in his community would be ill-fated like him to take two years to earn the fee required for appearing in Secondary School Certificate exams.
Every year he moves to schools in the district of Moulvibazar in August and invites names of four to five meritorious students in class five from every school.
That is the process he collects names of 500 students who are allowed to sit for an especial exam he arranges all through his own efforts. This special exam is organized after the year-ending exams of their school are over. Thirty toppers in that exam are awarded a crest, a dictionary, and, if possible, Tk 500 (depending on Bijoy's financial condition).
He also arranges coaching services for nearly 100 students including those set to appear in university admission tests. Last year, eighteen trainers were there to teach them almost voluntarily.
He is pursuing his dream to offer the light of education to his community through his organization - Swapnakuri (the bud of dream).
He said, "I can offer a nominal remuneration to the trainers as all the expenses are borne by me. Most of the coaching students hail from families of tea-garden workers and so are unable to pay any fee."
"When it comes to arranging especial exams, I need to invite some school teachers to be present as invigillator in the exam hall. But I am unable to offer them anything other than a cup of tea. Still I dream for better days. I don't want to see anybody quit studying because of financial crisis. This relates to my own personal memory. It was in 2001. I was supposed to appear in SSC exam. But my family was unable to manage the exam fee. I had to wait till 2003 to appear in the exam," he went on saying.
That was just the beginning of his struggle. Financial problem kept him waiting another three years for enrolling in college. In the meantime, he occasionally helped his mother in the tea garden and his father in repairing bicycle and did tuition jobs.
In 2006, he contacted a college teacher who asked him to manage at least Tk 1000 as the college admission fee was actually Tk 1800. Bijoy had to borrow money from his friends to enroll in the college. He continued to study and earned Higher Secondary School certificate in 2008. Later, he enrolled in degree exam and passed successfully. He started his voluntary works for education in 2011.
"To my knowledge, there are 92 tea gardens in my district. As tea garden workers are very poor, they find it very hard to manage expenses for their children' education. So I try to pick up the students who despite being very poor have a strong desire to continue their study," he said.
Recently, he secured a spot as one of the top 30 awardees in the Joy Bangla Youth Award (JBYA) Ceremony, one of the initiatives undertaken by the country's largest platform of change-makers Young Bangla under the auspices of Center for Research and Information (CRI).
"It was beyond my expectations to be one of the awardees. I was given a laptop, which helped me a lot. It comes to use for providing training on using computer to students.
There are families in the tea garden community who had never seen a laptop before. One has to see their facial expressions while moving the mouse. One student moved his whole body to move the cursor," he went on saying, adding that he also started working for building a library for poor students.
Despite being scolded by his family for dedicating his life to this cause, Bijoy works untiringly to ensure education for all. From earning for his family to arranging exams and offering education and scholarships, he manages everything on his own. Hats off to this one-man orchestra!
Tonmoy Ahmed is Assistant Coordinator Research,
Centre for Research and Information (CRI) and
Assistant Secretary, Central Sub-Committee,
Bangladesh Awami League