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After His Wife Died, This 68-Year-Old Man Went Back To School

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

Posted on June 15, 2016, at 5:54 a.m. ET

Durga Kami poses for a picture in his school uniform outside his home in Nepal.
Navesh Chitrakar / Reuters

Durga Kami poses for a picture in his school uniform outside his home in Nepal.

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.

Kami, center, and his classmates.
Navesh Chitrakar / Reuters

Kami, center, and his classmates.

Kami answers a question during a class. "This is my first experience teaching a person who is as senior as my father's age," one of his teachers said.
Navesh Chitrakar / Reuters

Kami answers a question during a class. "This is my first experience teaching a person who is as senior as my father's age," one of his teachers said.

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Navesh Chitrakar / Reuters
Navesh Chitrakar / Reuters


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Navesh Chitrakar / Reuters
Kami prepares dinner for himself.
Navesh Chitrakar / Reuters

Kami prepares dinner for himself.

Navesh Chitrakar / Reuters
Durga Kami uses a torch to read a book. Nepal has daily power cuts.
Navesh Chitrakar / Reuters

Durga Kami uses a torch to read a book. Nepal has daily power cuts.

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Navesh Chitrakar / Reuters
Kami's school provided him with stationary and a school uniform, which includes a pair of grey trousers, blue striped tie and white shirt.
Navesh Chitrakar / Reuters

Kami's school provided him with stationary and a school uniform, which includes a pair of grey trousers, blue striped tie and white shirt.

Navesh Chitrakar / Reuters
Navesh Chitrakar / Reuters
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Navesh Chitrakar / Reuters
Navesh Chitrakar / Reuters
Kami collects his school uniform, which had been drying in the sun.
Navesh Chitrakar / Reuters

Kami collects his school uniform, which had been drying in the sun.

"He is a little bit weak in studies compared to us but we help him out with that," Kami's 14-year old classmate Sagar Thapa said.
Navesh Chitrakar / Reuters

"He is a little bit weak in studies compared to us but we help him out with that," Kami's 14-year old classmate Sagar Thapa said.

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Kami takes a rest on his way to school.
Navesh Chitrakar / Reuters

Kami takes a rest on his way to school.

Navesh Chitrakar / Reuters
This English notebook belongs to Kami.
Navesh Chitrakar / Reuters

This English notebook belongs to Kami.

Kami fills his registration form to apply for the School Leaving Certificate exam.
Navesh Chitrakar / Reuters

Kami fills his registration form to apply for the School Leaving Certificate exam.

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Navesh Chitrakar / Reuters
Navesh Chitrakar / Reuters


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