In a rural village in Nepal, Durge Kami wakes up at the crack of dawn. He takes out his daily uniform consisting of grey trousers, a blue striped tie and crisp white shirt. After getting ready, he eats his breakfast, which consists of rice and a fermented green vegetable known as gundruk. With food in his belly and his school uniform on, he starts his day— walking to the nearest secondary school, which takes him over an hour to get to. As he settles into class and his classmates begin to pour in, Kami’s presence sticks out. In a classroom full of 14 and 15-year-old students, Kami is the oldest one—he is 69 years-old.
Growing up, Kami always dreamt of going to school. But he lived in an area that prevented him from attending one due to distance and poverty. He grew up without a formal education and each time he thought about going back, his growing responsibilities stopped him. He got married, had six children and before long he was a grandfather of eight. It wasn’t until after his children had left the home and his wife passed away that Kami began thinking about his dream once again. Trying to escape a lonely home, Kami sought out a local school and enrolled. At first, his presence at the school was a bit unusual for the students and teachers. But after a while, he became part of everyday life.
Despite his age, Kami is just like any other student. His favorite subject is social studies, he enjoys recess and plays soccer and volleyball with his classmates. He jokes that although he may be older than all of his teachers, he still pays attention and respects them.
Kami hopes that his decision to go back to school will inspire others to do the same. “Coming into my old age, I realize it is important to be an example of hope and willpower to people all over the nation, internationally, to the lower caste, to the youth and to the elderly” says Kami. “I want to lift people up. That’s why I’m studying,” he continues.
As his school day comes to an end and everyone begins to go home, Kami packs up his school bag, says goodbye to his teachers and starts on his long journey back home. After a two-hour trek, Kami finally gets home, exhausted but excited to do it all over again the next day. But just like the rest of his schoolmates, he has to finish his homework before he can call it a night.