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Mumbai: Doctors turn saviours for Covid orphans

Author: Rupsa Chakraborty
Publication: Hindustan Times
Date: July 6, 2021
URL:       https://www.hindustantimes.com/cities/mumbai-news/mumbai-doctors-turn-saviours-for-covid-orphans-101625513950868.html

Amid the Covid-19 pandemic, a group of city doctors is providing school fees to children from poor economic backgrounds who have lost either or both of their parents to the Covid-19 infection

Amid the Covid-19 pandemic, a group of city doctors is providing school fees to children from poor economic backgrounds who have lost either or both of their parents to the Covid-19 infection. This group has already managed to help 36 such children with their annual school fees, which generally range between ₹30,000 and ₹35,000.

Dr Amit Thadhani, a surgeon, along with his fellow friends from the medical fraternity, is reaching out to such needy students across the country through his non-government organisation (NGO), Prime Education Health Learning Services (PEHL). So far, they have received 90 applications across India from students who have lost their parents to the Covid-19 infection. Of these, two applicants have been orphaned after Covid claimed the lives of both of their parents. Already, 36 of them have been helped with this year’s school fees.

A Google document has been circulated through social media to submit the details for the grant.

“This is the time of school admissions and due to Covid-19, many families who have lost their sole breadwinners are struggling to pay their school fees. We are trying to help such students. Once selected, we would pay their school fees for the three subsequent academic years. We have a target to help 100 such students,” said Dr Thadhani.

“The fees are directly sent to the school’s bank account,” he added.

The NGO has six-seven doctors on board, who are working closely to facilitate it. All applications undergo scrutiny before getting the approval.

“We have three project coordinators who look after three different parts of India — west, north and south. Once we get an application, we check essential documents such as Aadhaar card, ration card and death certificates of the deceased parents. Also, we check the mark sheets of the previous two years to confirm that the students didn’t drop out,” said Dr Anjana Thadhani, developmental paediatrician and director of PEHL services.

In most cases, they are getting applications from families where the fathers have died because of Covid-19. “In some cases, if we find the family belongs from a very poor economic background, then we also provide school fees to the other siblings in the family,” she added.

On an average, they are providing ₹30,000- ₹35,000 as annual school fees. But recently, they have provided ₹1.15 lakh to a student who is studying engineering. It is the highest amount that has been paid so far to a student.

Other than getting financial support from different trusts for the campaign, doctors also are also chipping in money from their own pockets to support the cause.

“Most of the money that is being donated through the campaign has been mostly contributed by doctors and members who are part of the NGO. We are also getting fellow peers who are coming forward for help,” said Dr Thadhani.

In the state, since the outbreak of the pandemic, till July 4, a total of 123,030 individuals have succumbed to the infection.

‘Father died in April, mother struggled for son’s school fees’

On April 18, Sunil Kundale, 43, a resident of Nagpur, succumbed to Covid-19 infection, leaving behind his wife and two children—a one-year-old daughter and an 11-year-old son. Amid the loss, his wife, Deepali Sunil Kundale, had to knock at people’s doors to collect money for his son’s school fees.

Kundale used to work as a manager in a local coaching centre. In the first week of April, he contracted Covid-19 and was hospitalised.

Most of his savings were spent on his treatment which has now left the family penniless.

“I didn’t want my son to leave school. So, when a relative sent me a link to apply for the financial grant, I immediately applied. Last week, they transferred ₹30,000 to the school’s account for my son. Now, at least, I won’t have to feel guilty for my inability to pay my son’s school fees,” said Deepali, who is looking for a job to support her family.

‘It was a year of struggle after my husband’s death’

Mandakini Dubey, 32, lost her job as a sales advisor, when the malls closed down owing to the pandemic. Soon, hell broke loose on her when her husband, Sunil Dubey, 32, died because of Covid-19 last year in July. The situation turned more problematic when she ran out of her savings this year and failed to pay her seven-year-old son’s school fees.

“My husband, who used to work at a security company, lost his job early in the pandemic. We both were dependent on our savings. Last year, when he died, I wasn’t in a condition to work so my brother helped us financially. But this year, I didn’t even have the money for my son’s education,” she said.

Later, the NGO came forward and submitted ₹21,750 to his son’s school in Mulund. “The doctors spoke with my son on video call and even inspected our house. Later, they deposited the money and my son was raised to Class 1,” she said. “I have no way to thank these doctors who helped us in this situation,” she added.
 
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