Durga Kami brushes his bushy white beard, puts on his school uniform and, with the aid of his walking stick, trudges for over an hour to class for another day of learning.
Poverty prevented Kami finishing his studies as a child and achieving his goal of becoming a teacher. Now 68, the father of six and grandfather of eight goes to school six days a week to complete his studies and escape a lonely home life following the death of his wife.
Walking into the Shree Kala Bhairab higher secondary school and the buzz created by 200 children is a welcome contrast to the hush of the isolated one-room home, with its leaking roof and frequent power cuts, where Kami lives in Syangja district, some 250 km (155 miles) west of Nepal’s capital Kathmandu.
“To forget my sorrows I go to school,” said Kami, one of the oldest students in Nepal, in the classroom where he studies alongside 14 and 15-year-olds.
Kami, whose children have all left his hilltop home, first went to Kaharay primary school where he learnt to read and write with the seven and eight year olds before leaving after finishing grade five with the 11-year-olds.
Shree Kala Bhairab teacher D.R Koirala then invited Kami to his school, which provided the grandfather with stationary and a school uniform including grey trousers, blue striped tie and white shirt.
“This is my first experience teaching a person who is as senior as my father’s age,” Koirala said. “I feel very excited and happy.” The school scholarship does not stretch to cover food, though, meaning Kami’s breakfast of rice with a fermented green vegetable known as ‘Gundruk’ must sustain him until dinner.
The 20 children in his grade 10 class have dubbed Kami ‘Baa’, which means ‘father’ in Nepali, but despite his age their elderly class mate joins in all activities, including volleyball in the schoolyard.
“I used to think ‘why is this old man coming to school to study with us?’ but as time passed I enjoyed his company,” Kami’s 14-year-old class mate Sagar Thapa said. “He is a little bit weak in studies compared to us but we help him out with that.”
Kami said he wanted to study until his death, adding he hoped it would encourage others to ignore age obstacles. “If they see an old person with white beard like me studying in school they might get motivated as well,” he said.