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THURSDAY, December 07, 2023

Nepali woman's quest to learn takes her back to school with son

Nepali woman's quest to learn takes her back to school with son
THURSDAY, August 18, 2022

Nepali mother of two, Parwati Sunar, puts on a uniform of a light blue blouse, dark skirt and a striped tie one morning, before stepping out of home with her schoolmates, her two sons.

Sunar has decided to re-enrol in an education system she fled at the age of 15, when she eloped with a man to India, before giving up a job there as a housemaid to return to Nepal and her studies, aged 27.

"I got married at a young age, and after that, I went to India with my husband. Everyone used to talk in English over there. I found it very difficult because of not know English. It inspired me to learn," said Sunar, explaining the desire to catch up on the lessons she missed.

Just about 57% of women are literate in the country of 29 million, and Sunar said she hoped to finish the 12th grade and become "literate enough" to be able to keep household accounts.

"I realised the importance of education," she said from her school in Punarbas, on the southwestern edge of the Himalayan nation, adding that she hopes one of her sons will become a doctor one day.

One of Sunar's classmates, 14-year-old Bijay B.K., said it was fun to be in the same class with her.

"I help didi in studies and she helps me too," he said, using the Nepali term for an elder sister. "She scolds me when I don't do my homework."

As a seventh-grade student, Sunar was below average, but a keen learner, said Bharat Basnet, the principal of the village school.

After classes, Sunar and her sons take a 20-minute walk to their home, a tin-roofed two-room structure of bare bricks shared with their mother-in-law, before engaging in various activities.

On some days, Sunar does chores like feeding their goats, cooking, and cleaning.

On other days, she cycles to computer classes at a nearby institute with her 11-year-old son Resham, or spends time completing homework.

Occasionally, time is spent catching up with Sunar's husband Yam through video calls, who has remained in the southern Indian city of Chennai as a labourer in order to support his family.

The family belong to the Dalit community, formerly known as untouchables, on the lowest rungs of the Hindu caste system, but Sunar said they had faced no ill-treatment over this.

Sunar's efforts could inspire more village women thirsty to learn beyond their domestic horizons to return to school in Nepal, where they still face discrimination and child marriage is widespread, even though illegal.