With his SSC exams only a few months away, Minhazul Islam Anik's dream of becoming an engineer almost shattered when he sustained severe injuries when he got caught in the middle of a firebomb attack in Feni in early 2015.
On the other side of the country, Arifa Khatun faced an uncertain future, with no idea how she was going to survive in the world when she was missing half her limbs – her two hands.
Anik and Arifa have one thing in common – showing extraordinary determination that borders on superhero abilities, they both overcame their unique situations and successfully passed the SSC exams this year.
“My only aim for the past year has been to appear in the [SSC] exam so that I could become an engineer someday. My journey got delayed for a while, but I am happy that I was finally able to start it,” said Anik, 17.
Anik appeared in the Secondary School Certificate (SSC) examinations from Feni Government Pilot High School and scored a GPA 5 in science group.
Talking to the Dhaka Tribune, Anik said he was supposed to appear in the exam last year. “I was returning from my maths tuition on January 5, 2015 when a firebomb suddenly hit me. The right side of my head was heavily injured, including my right eye.
The government took responsibility of Anik's treatment. He had to go through three surgeries in Chennai, India, and a false retina was implanted in his damaged eye.
He still had bandages around his head when he sat for the exams this year.
“Thanks to the Almighty and everyone who helped me. Because of their help, I was able to appear in the exam; I was able to take the first step towards my dream to study at Buet,” Anik said.
His mother Jesmin Rahman said she was grateful to the government for funding her son's treatment.
“During the exam, he could not study for long because it pained him. But he has strong will and he kept on studying, ignoring the pain,” she told the Dhaka Tribune. “Thanks to the Almighty that he was able to give the exams and score such a wonderful result too.”
His father Mizanur Rahman, who is a migrant based in Oman, said the pain of his injuries were forgotten because of his results. “We are grateful for all the help.”
While Anik suffered at the hands of humans, Arifa was helpless before nature.
She lost both her hands to an unknown disease soon after she was born. Youngest among five siblings and born to ultra-poor families, no one hoped that Arifa would be able to make it through.
But she did. Being without hands never phased her; she uses her feet to write, to draw, to comb her hair – to do just about anything. The only time she needs help is when she needs to eat, dress herself and take baths. That is when her mother Mamtaz Begum lends her a hand.
Seeing how determined their youngest child was to lead a normal life, Mamtaz and her husband Abdul Ali, who is a locksmith, made sure she had access to education, because among their five children, Arifa is the brightest.
And Arifa did not disappoint. She scored a GPA 4.11 in humanities group from Phulgachh High School in Lalmonirhat Sadar upazila this year.
Her family is overjoyed with her academic success. “My daughter has made all of us proud,” said her father, Ali.
Earlier, she attained the fifth position on the merit list during her Primary School Certificate exams and scored a GPA 4.4 in her Junior School Certificate exams.
Asked what her aim in life was, Arifa said she wanted to become a lawyer. “I want to fight against injustice. I want to help people.”
But despite scoring such a good result, Arifa was more worried than happy. “Girls like me who come from poor families seldom get the opportunity to carry on the journey to their goals.”
Shahjahan Ali, headmaster at Arifa's school, said it was her sheer determination and strong will that brought her this far. “Now it must be ensured that her extraordinary journey does not get halted because of poverty. I hope she overcomes every obstacle in life and her dream comes true.”