The long walk to getting an education

For Thakur Chepang, who once walked five hours every day to and from his school back home, it’s been a long journey to education in more ways than one

Aayush Niroula
Almost always early to class, Thakur sits observing the charts and materials on the walls of his new classroom
UNICEF Nepal/2019/ANiroula

23 July 2019

Bhaktapur, Nepal – 12-year-old Thakur Chepang is the first to arrive in his class. In the time that the first session is set to begin, he carefully takes in the writings on the charts and posters in his class room’s walls. It has only been about a month since he started at the Chitrapur Basic School in Suryabinayak, Bhaktapur district, and the rooms of this school are a revelation to him. He says he particularly likes the weather chart, which he has memorized.

“Asar and Sharwan are high danger time for flood and landslides, Chaitra is dangerous for storms,” he recites.

Thakur currently studies in the new Transitional Learning Centre, constructed as part of the USAID-UNICEF programme restoring educational infrastructure in earthquake affected districts. He has recently emigrated to Kathmandu from his home in Dhading district, where his father is a daily-wage labourer in construction and his mother is a homemaker. The reason he shifted to the city to live with his sister is the distance he had to walk to get to the school in his village. He says he traversed an incredible two-and-a-half hours every day, each way, to get to his school. He would start at seven in the morning and walk an uphill trek amidst changing scenery – forests, fields, and rivers – to catch his first class. Sometimes he would find his friends on the way, other times he would be alone. There, too, he was never late.

The Chitrapur Basic School in Bhaktapur which Thakur now attends.
UNICEF Nepal/2019/ANiroula
The Chitrapur Basic School in Bhaktapur which Thakur now attends.

Apart from his incredible punctuality, Thakur is also different from the other students in his school in the particular way he speaks, addressing his peers with a deferring “tapai” as he might call his teachers or elders, rather than “timi” which is the norm among friends. He even calls those younger than him in the same way. He is a straight speaker but also very polite. He says his parents taught him to speak in that way. His parents also taught him one other thing.

“My father says it is important to get education. He didn’t get an education because there was no school in the village when he was growing up,” Thakur recalls.

Thakur’s sister works in beauty parlors. His elder brother quit school and like their father now works wage-labour in the construction industry. But Thakur is adamant he will become a teacher, although he is unsure exactly which subject he will be teacher. Something about his parents’ insistence on education has resonated deeply with him. When asked if he ever felt like skipping school when he was walking all that way to and from school back in his village, especially when the five hour journey left little time for him to actually receive any learning, he gives a firm no. “I like to study,” he says.

Apart from his incredible punctuality, Thakur is also different from the other students in his school in the particular way he speaks, addressing his peers with a deferring “tapai” as he might call his teachers or elders, rather than “timi” which is the norm among friends. He even calls those younger than him in the same way. He is a straight speaker but also very polite. He says his parents taught him to speak in that way. His parents also taught him one other thing. “My father says it is important to get education. He didn’t get an education because there was no school in the village when he was growing up,” Thakur recalls.

Thakur’s sister works in beauty parlors. His elder brother quit school and like their father now works wage-labour in the construction industry. But Thakur is adamant he will become a teacher, although he is unsure exactly which subject he will be teacher. Something about his parents’ insistence on education has resonated deeply with him. When asked if he ever felt like skipping school when he was walking all that way to and from school back in his village, especially when the five hour journey left little time for him to actually receive any learning, he gives a firm no. “I like to study,” he says.