When Durga Kami was a child, he wanted to become a teacher.
Today, Kami, a 68-year-old father of six children and grandfather of eight, goes to school six days a week — but as a student in 10th grade at a local high school in Nepal.
Kami said he was unable to go to school as a child because his family was too poor. When his wife died 15 years ago, he decided to do something about that, and enrolled in the local school, to combat his loneliness. With his grown-up children having long ago left home, he lives alone in a one-room house in a hilltop village in Syangja, a district about 150 miles from Kathmandu, the country’s capital.
"To forget my sorrows I go to school," Kami said in an interview with Reuters. Despite his age, Kami said he will continue to study until he dies, and hopes his story encourages others to ignore age barriers. "If they see an old person with white beard like me studying in school they might get motivated as well," he said.
According to a 2012 U.N. report, Nepal’s adult literacy rate is only around 58% — by comparison, the youth literacy rate is about 90% — and its government says 1.74 million of its adult population is enrolled in over 20,000 classes around the country. Nepal is home to about 27 million people.
Next year, Kami will join more than half a million students in taking the national School Leaving Certificate exam, commonly referred to as the “Iron Gate” — it is considered the gateway to an academic career. Kami has told his classmates that he will shave his beard if he passes the exam.
Last week, Reuters' Navesh Chitrakar spent some time with Kami in his village.