Nepalese Grandfather goes to school at 68, but why

If you are looking for some inspiration here is one great story for you. Durga Kami, a 68-year-old Nepalese grandfather living in a small village in the hilly district of Syangja, 155 miles west of Nepal’s capital Katmandu, is studying in grade ten along with a score of 14 to 15-year-old students, attending school six days in a week.

As a child Durga Kami always aspired to be a teacher but because of poverty he did not get the opportunity to attend school. However, much later after becoming a father to 6 children, grandfather to 8, and after his wife died leaving him alone he decided to pursue his dreams once again by enrolling at school.

He first attended Kaharay primary school with 7 and 8 year-olds where he learnt how to read and write. When he finished grade 5 with 11-year-old students he was invited by D.R.Koirala, a teacher at Shree Kala Bhairab Higher Secondary School to enroll there. The school provided him with a uniform including grey trousers, blue striped tie, white shirt, books and stationary. He is now studying in grade 10 at the school.

The school scholarship does not provide any food, though, and Kami’s breakfast of rice with a fermented green vegetable known as ‘Gundruk’ is all that he eats until dinner. Durga Kami stays alone in a one room house atop a hill. His children and their families have all moved out. The house has a leaky roof and frequent power cuts, but such is Kami’s will to complete his education that he often studies by candle or torch light.

Every morning Kami brushes his teeth, washes and combs his bushy white beard, puts on his school uniform and, with the aid of his walking stick, trudges to school. The walk to the Shree Kala Bhairab school takes about an hour.

His 20 classmates address him as ‘Ba’ which means ‘father’ and even though he is so much older than his younger counterparts, Kami makes the effort to join them in all the extra-curricular activities including volleyball.

His classmate 14-year-old Sagar Thapa says, “I used to think why is this old man coming to school to study with us?’ but as time passed I enjoyed his company.”

“We gradually passed eighth and ninth grade and have successfully reached 10th grade. We help him on what he doesn’t know and he also asks us questions without any hesitation.” “He is a little bit weak in studies compared to us but we help him out with that,” he added.

Kami has promised Sagar Thapa that he will cut his beard off if he passes the tenth grade.

Reuters photojournalist Navesh Chitrakar, recently published a photo essay on Durga Kami portraying in potent and poignant pictures the remarkable story of this ‘young’ old man who has rekindled his dream for education.

It makes for an amazing picture, a white-bearded 68-year-old Nepalese wearing a school uniform with a bunch of other students aged 14 to 15. If there is vitality and exuberance on the boys’ youthful faces there is determination and hope on the old one’s.

There are photos of Durga Kami’s old wrinkled hand on his book, his dilapidated house on the hilltop, of him studying by torchlight and one which shows him brushing his bushy, white beard. These pictures portray more than a thousand words could, the courage, will power, perseverance and character of the Nepalese grandfather.

“To forget my sorrows I go to school,” Mr. Kami had told Navesh Chitrakar, adding that he wanted to escape a lonely life after the death of his wife.

Durga Kami belongs to the lowest rung of the caste system, called ‘Dalit’, or the ‘Untouchables’. “I am attending school with the intention of getting myself educated before I die and to impart knowledge to other Dalits as well”, says Kami.

Navesh Chitrakar had nothing but praise for the determination of Mr. Kami, who studies by torchlight at night and skips meals because he can’t afford it. “He is a very strong and motivational person, also wise but I felt his sadness and loneliness,” the photojournalist told the BBC.

He aspires to study till his last breath and wants his story to become an inspiration for all who want to study, with age not being a factor.

“If they see an old person with a white beard like me studying in school they might get motivated as well,” he said.

They certainly will Grandpa Kami!

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