Government Policy

From vegetable seller to university student: Story of an indomitable dream

For Md Asif Ali, it has been a saga of loss, sadness and success.

Asif, undaunted by extreme poverty caused by his father’s desertion and then the death of the grandfather, has pursued his dream of higher studies.

Today, he has turned from a vegetable seller to a student of Jagannath University thanks to his determination and had work.

Talking to UNB this week Asif narrated how the wonder happened and how the humble boy from Swarupnagar village in Puthia Upazila of Rajshahi made it to a premier university of the country.

Asif was in class three when his wife-beating father left home one day leaving his grandfather as the only breadwinner of the family.

By breaking bricks the old man somehow managed to feed the family. But life had more miseries planned for Asif as his grandfather died two years later.

Then a student of class five, Asif learned to endure the horrific pain of hunger when his mother couldn’t earn the daily meal for the family even after buying a goat with borrowed money.

“My grandmother tried to help by working in other people’s vegetable fields but what she got at the end of the day was not even enough for one meal,” said Asif.

By the time Asif was in class six, he got a job in a hotel on condition of free meals and Tk 5 to 10 per day as wages.

“We could buy 30 kg of rice per month with Tk 300 through the government’s VGF (Vulnerable Group Feeding) card but still didn’t have enough to buy something to eat with the rice. There were days we had only a pinch of salt with rice, unable to buy vegetables.”

Asif recalled the days when he used to stand for hours in front of the neighbours, houses in hope they would offer him something good to eat.

While in class seven he started working at a distant uncle’s vegetable shop at Mahendra Bazar. There he had to work for the whole day on Sunday and Wednesday, the two busiest days of Bazar by dodging classes.

“I accepted the condition as for those two days they paid me Tk 100 and some vegetables to take home for the family. My mother used to run the family through my earnings and rearing goats,” said Asif.

Every morning a Rajshahi University bus used to stop for the students at Mahendra Bazar. Seeing the respect and honour they got as university students from the locals, teenaged Asif’ was moved.

In 2018, for the first time Asif crossed the 2.1 km path from where he worked to the Rajshahi University to visit the campus to watch the celebration “Pahela Baishakh.”

Mesmerised by everything he saw on the campus Asif’s daydream of getting higher education turned into a strong determination.

That year Asif passed SSC exam from Bharuapara High School obtaining GPA 4.89 and with scholarship ranking 251 in Rajshahi Education Board. He also got a chance at Rajshahi University School and College situated in Rajshahi University.

At that turning point of his life Asif remembered gratefully how his shop owner uncle, a lady teacher of the high school, his maternal uncle and a local brother made sure he got admitted by managing the fees and uniform for him.

“From there I started nurturing my dream and learned there is no alternative to studies for me. On the two weekdays I used to work in others’ fields,” he said.

After that, passing an examination arranged by a private organization earned him free four month’s public university admission coaching at Mohammadpur in Dhaka city.

But then came another setback in Asif’s life in the form of Covid-19 when all the public university admission exams were postponed for an indefinite period.

Thanks the non-profit Manusher Jonno Foundation (MJF) he managed to stay three more months in Dhaka.

After seven months he had to return home and start working in the fields again but the detachment from studies made him anxious soon.

Asif then contacted the director of a coaching centre named Borno in Dhaka and requested him to manage a work for him that will give him meals and accommodation.

Amid the strict lockdown Asif returned to Dhaka on a truck and got Tk 100 per day for preparing questions for admission test students in exchange for free accommodation.

With the help of Manusher Jonno Foundation again Asif applied in all the universities and made to the merit list of Bangladesh University of Professionals (BUP), University of Dhaka, Rajshahi University Khulna, University, Jagannath University and in cluster examination he got 64.50 mark.

Asif took admission at the department of Mass Communication and Journalism at Jagannath University and currently works at a coaching centre where he stays too.

Amid all these years of struggle Asif’s mother stood strongly beside him by inspiring her son to continue his studies at any cost along with working.

“My mother’s only wish is to see her son to become happy,” said Asif.

Knowing the pain of hunger well Asif said he doesn’t have too many great ambitions yet but never wishes to get back to the days of poverty, when the family was unable to manage three meals a day.

Source: United News of Bangladesh