Esther Preethi and the true meaning of education

K. JAVEED NAYEEM writes: The week that has gone by had a mixed bag of events that have left me with mixed feelings, both happy and sad.

The news that really stirred my soul and elevated it to an unusually lofty level of happiness was about the Sri Venkateswara University in Andhra Pradesh postponing its engineering examinations by a full week to let the students of one engineering college collect donations to save the life of one of its students — Esther Preethi, the daughter of a poor taxi driver from Madanapalli in Chittoor District, now doing her final year engineering at NBKR Institute of Technology in Nellore.

She reportedly developed liver failure for which she was advised a liver transplant costing almost Rs 50 lakh.

Her father was crestfallen as this amount was far beyond his means and even what he could hope to garner from sources open to him. That was when his daughter’s college-mates decided to do their bit by collecting donations from the public to pay for Preethi’s surgery.

Since the need for surgery was very urgent, as it usually is in such cases, about 540 students of final year engineering rushed to the director of the college, V. Vijayakumar Reddy, with a request to allow them to go out and collect donations by skipping classes.

Touched by the students’ resolve, the college management, too, offered financial assistance and allowed the students to spare no efforts to save Preethi’s life.

Forming about 30 groups, the students went around Nellore town and nearby villages and started collecting donations. Since their examinations too were just round the corner the students again pleaded with their college management to speak to the Vice-Chancellor to postpone the exams on humanitarian grounds.

In perhaps an act of unprecedented magnanimity, the Sri Venkateswara University (SVU) responded to their request and postponed the first semester examinations of its final year, which had to begin on November 14, to give time to the students to help save their ailing friend.

“This could be the first time that a University has rescheduled examinations to allow students to collect funds for a noble cause,” Reddy said after SVU Vice-Chancellor W. Rajendra issued a notification acceding to the students’ request.

My joy is naturally very great because this is the true meaning and spirit of any real education. There is no point in simply quoting rules and applying them mechanically as is usually done all around us when a more humanitarian approach would do much good in a delicate situation.

When the powers vested in us permit us to be kind rather than curt, it is important to take the former approach. I salute all those who did their bit to save Preethi’s budding life and wish her a speedy recovery.

(K. Javeed Nayeem is a practising physician who writes a weekly column in Star of Mysore, where this piece originally appeared)

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