It’s not unusual in this kind of terrain to run over big mountains for a small opportunity of a job. Dreams carry people anywhere. If one desire is not fulfilled, another emerges.
Lal Bahadur Dangi in the same school in Chautha where he hopes to get appointed as a teacher
Recently, while climbing the Danphe hill above Jumla bazaar one sunny morning, I met a young man clad in the jersey of Brazilian football team and blue jeans that was folded up to the knees. Record holder high altitude marathon runner Hari Bahadur Rokaya of Jumla, who was accompanying me up to the hill, and the Palpasa Cafe t-shirt that I was wearing immediately brought me closer to Lal Bahadur Dangi. Since our destination for the evening was the same remote village called Chautha that belonged to the Bumramadi Chaur VDC of Jumla. My plan was to head for Rara Lake the next day while Lal Bahadur was hiking for a ‘special purpose’ around which this article revolves.
The one and the only primary school in Chautha, that was run by the government had a vacancy for a teacher and this 23-year-old was hiking to try his luck for the post. Himself a teacher at Kanika Nisha English School in Jumla Bazaar, Lal Bahadur was visiting the remote place just for the heck of it. “I don’t mind working in a primary school,” said Lal Bahadur who holds the license to teach at lower secondary level and is waiting for his B Ed third year exam results”. If I get the job, I can compete internally to teach at secondary level as soon as I pass B Ed. That’s equivalent to a Section Officer. Nothing like that happens in a private school.” He was confident of getting the job if the selection was done in a transparent manner. He added: “If not, boarding jindabaad!”
It’s not unusual in this kind of terrain to run over big mountains for a small job. Dreams carry people anywhere. If one desire remains unfulfilled, another emerges. “I wanted to be a good football player,” said Lal Bahadur. “But I couldn’t get an opportunity.” When he knew his dream to play wasn’t going to materialize, he thought of becoming a Section Officer. While leaving home this morning with a small bag containing necessary papers and marks sheet, he had already made up his mind to live in a village-should he get the job- that would not even catch the Radio Nepal’s signal properly.
Sunita Budha and her mother. Initially hesitant about being photographed, the girl requested me take several snaps after her mother also showed interest.
After hiking for a while, we met three villagers who, coincidently, were from Chautha. They were aware of the vacancy and one of them mentioned about a rule that would give any applicant from the village priority of five points over other competitors. “I will do anything for the future of your children,” assured Lal Bahadur as we ate bread that one of the accompanying villagers had brought for afternoon snacks. The oldest among the three said: “Let us see your talent. The selection process will be transparent and fair.” The hiring was an affair the whole village was giving close attention to.
Since the villagers faced a difficult life due to poverty and lack of education, they were conscious of the need to provide good education to their kids and very careful when it came to selecting a qualified teacher. They told us that whoever gets selected will not have a problem of food and shelter. The school, with 95 students, had 2 teachers- both females who stayed in Chautha. After walking about an hour uphill from the school, I met two such parents in a tea shop who said they will bring the new teacher in this locality as soon as the selection process is over.
“We will provide food and shelter to the Master for free,” said Ranabir Bhandari.
“Sir will have to take kids to school safely and bring them back. Here, students’ education is very low as our homes are far from school. If we have one Master, they will get to study in morning and evening.”
Devilal Bhandari, seated next to Ranabir, added: “Our life is ruined because we didn’t study. We don’t want our kids to be like us. ”
Both Ranabir and Deviall had attended school up to fourth grade. They didn’t miss to claim that the quality of education at their time was better than today.
“Education [quality is] very low in Nepal,” Ranvir said. “They only raise grades.”
Devilal added: “Our fourth grade is equal to today’s 8th.”
Sunita Budha, her mother and a relative. Taken as per the request of Sunita and her mother.
Lal Bahadur told me he was committed to provide the same quality of education to the kids from the village. But there came a twist in his teaching story as we crossed Danphe hill and stopped to have lunch in a small hut. ” mero cheat khosne timi nai hau (You are the one who confiscated (a piece of paper),” I could only catch those words that came from the girl, daughter of the shop owner, who was heavily using local slang.
Later, I learned that the girl, Sunita Budha, had appeared in the SLC exam from Jumla Bazaar’s Chandannath High School and Lal Bahadur was the invigilator for the English examination when the incident took place. The result would be published in Kathmandu newspapers the next day and Sunita was having doubts over her performance in English.
“I was planning to scold you whenever we met,” said the girl as she served guest with rice.
“There’s no one you can call your own,” her mother joined the outcry as she asked the teacher if he wanted more vegetable.
“The District Education Officer was very near and had I not confiscated the paper [that Sunita’s friend Kalpana had thrown at her] he would have expelled you from the exam hall,” clarified the teacher. “It was my duty as a guard to conduct a cheating free exam.”
“You will be responsible if I fail English,” the student warned.
“I am the one who teaches your sister,” defended Lal Bahadur.
“Bahini lai padaune, didi lai bigarne (You are teaching the younger sister but foiled the chances of the older one),” joked a guest in the tea shop.
As I left the shop, I saw Lal Bahaur having private conversation with Sunita outside the house. “Is she happy now?” I asked him as he approached me. Lal Bahadur simply smiled back.
This story will appear on tomorrow’s Kathmandu Post. Nepali version appeared in today’s Kantipur.
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