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THE POWER OF DREAMS

By Pabitra Sarmah

A girl’s journey from a tea garden of Assam to the Asian University of Women, Bangladesh

Pollovi Das Panika, an ex-student of Apeejay Tea’s Hokunguri Tea Estate’s L.P. School, has been selected by the Asian University for Women in Chittagong as a student for 5 years on a fully-paid scholarship worth US $75,000, which includes the cost of tuition and residency, and which will be borne by the University. The achievement of PolloviDasPanika has brought pride not only to Apeejay Tea’s Hokunguri T.E. but also to the State of Assam and itsentire tea garden community.
The L.P. School of Apeejay Hokonguri TE was adjudged asan A+ Category school at Gunotsav 2017 – the highest grade out of 122 schools in Tinsukia District of Assam. Pollovi also read in this very school and was selected to study at the Asian University for Women, Bangladesh.Pollovi’s achievement has been hugely motivating and inspirational for all the students of her school. She is a role model alumnus for them.
Just a few months ago, in February, we held a felicitation programme for all teachers and students as well as the school management committee for the school’s achievement in ‘Gunotsav 2017’ and discussed ways on how we can become better. And now when a former student of the school receives a fully-paid admission to a foreign university, there definitely can’t be a prouder moment for all of us at Apeejay Tea!Pollovi’s success in cracking the AUW entrance examination opens up a world of opportunities for her. We want Pollovi to realise her potential and then decide what she wants to do and where she wants to be in the future.
A 19 year-old girl, Pollovia very bright and chirpy girl with stars in her eyes. She is one of three students selected by AUW after she managed to clear the admission test and the interview round. Pollovi has chosen Environmental Science as a specialisation in AUW because of her love for Geography as a subject and the outdoors and hopes her success will motivate everyone in her community. She has, in fact,promised her parents that she will use the opportunity she now has.”I havealways loved studying; my favourite teacher was my class teacher in Hokunguri L. P School. At present, I feel like everything is possible! I want to come back, work in a garden and make sure that everyone goes to school and study harder,”she says.
Pollavi is the eldest of three children; she has a brother and sister who are 14 years old and 16 years old respectively. Ashok Das Panika, her fatherwho works in Apeejay Tea’s Hokunguri Tea Estate. wants her to become what she chooses to be! “Pollovi has achieved this all by herself and now I will not impose any target for her. I couldnot have financed the kind of education that she will get in the university”, he said.
Renu Das Panika, her mother,who has worked as an Asha Karmi and was the Panchayat president for nearby 10 villages for five years till last year,is grateful that her daughter has got this opportunity. “I am sure she will be able to study very hard and become very successful. Pollovi, I and her father were felicitated by the Hokunguri Tea estate management and I felt so touched and proud of being the object of such respect because of my daughter’s achievement,” she says.
Apeejay Tea is India’s third largest tea producer with 17 tea estates in the prime tea growing areas of Tinsukia, Dibrugarh, Charaideo, Udalguri and Sonitpur District of Assam, spread over 50,000 acres and produces Typhoo, UK’s third largest and an over 100-year-old iconic British tea brand.The support to education is part of Apeejay’s value system and we believe that education will build a better future for all.
Education is a powerful tool for social change as it empowers individuals and their families, enriches communities and ultimately uplifts societies. Our constant endeavour is to improve educational standards and infrastructure across schools in Apeejay Tea’s tea estates in Assam.
We are thankful to the Indian Tea Association(ITA)which has been keenly pursuing this 5-year program offered by the Asian University for Women (AUW), which starts with a one year ‘Pathways to Success’ Program,which is an induction-orientation year to bring students from stressed backgrounds at par with other AUW students for the last few months. It has actively scouted for young enterprising girl candidates from tea gardens of its member companies who had passed School boards or the 10th or 12th examination.After completing the Pathways Program, students join Access which is a combination of tutoring and regular course work for the under-graduate program. The two years together helpsbring at par students from stressed backgrounds.
The AUW, based in Chittagong, Bangladesh, has a Policy to induct about a third of its students from difficult backgrounds, most of them who are the first in their family to enter university. AUW funds these students by raising resources from donors across the world to achieve its objective of graduating women who will be skilled and innovative professionals, service-oriented leaders in the communities in which they will work and live and promoters of inter-cultural understanding and sustainable human and economic development in Asia and throughout the world. Over 50% of their faculty are women and 55% are international faculty. The AUW initiative with ITA will hopefully educate the next generation of women leaders from the tea tribes of Assam.

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