Nepalese grandfather 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 from 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.
Durga Kami’s one-room house, where he has lived alone since his wife died, in Syangja, Nepal. Photograph: Navesh Chitrakar/Reuters
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, about 155 miles (250km) west of Nepal’s capital, Kathmandu.
“To forget my sorrows I go to school,” Kami, one of the oldest students in Nepal, told Reuters in the classroom where he studies alongside 14- and 15-year-olds.
A teacher at the school, DR Koirala, invited Kami to go back to school, providing him with stationery 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.”
A game of volleyball during a break from lessons. Photograph: Navesh Chitrakar/Reuters
Kami’s scholarship does not stretch to cover food, though, meaning his breakfast – a dish of rice with a fermented green vegetable known as gundruk –must sustain him until dinner.
The 20 children in his class have dubbed Kami “Baa”, which means “father” in Nepali, but despite his age their elderly classmate joins in all activities, including volleyball in the playground.
“I used to think, ‘why is this old man coming to school to study with us?’, but as time passed I enjoyed his company,” said Sagar Thapa, one of Kami’s 14-year-old classmates.