Seema’s story: Opening doors through education in NepalMay 6, 2021
“I lost my ability to walk due to polio, but that doesn’t define who I am,” says Seema Gupta, 23, who was born and raised in a disadvantaged community in the Bara district of Nepal. On the contrary, she defines herself by what she’s become: an educator. “Education opened the door to my dream – my dream of working for a reputable organization."
Seema is a teacher at the Community Learning Center (CLC) in her village, an educational initiative by the Aarambha Leave No Girl Behind project, which is led by People in Need (PIN) as part of the UK Aid-funded Girls’ Education Challenge. The CLC, which is co-operated by Aasaman Nepal, works with married and out-of-school adolescent girls from Rautahat and Bara, teaching courses in literacy, math, and life skills.
Seema contracted polio when she was three years old. The disease affected both of her legs and she uses a cane to help her walk. Her parents grew vegetables to sell in the local market, and used the money to run their household and educate their four children. Though money was always tight, Seema's parents encouraged her to study and she became the first member of her family to complete her secondary education. Although she does not attend college at the moment, she continues to study and hopes to enroll in the future.
The power of education
Seema has always believed in the power of education, and she hasn’t allowed her physical disability to keep her from her studies. "During my childhood, my teachers or friends helped me get to school on their bicycles or motorbikes,” she says. “Sometimes, when I had to go on my own, I would be late. I was scared that the teacher would scold or punish me, but they did not. That also encouraged me to go to school."
"But not everyone was supportive,” she says. “Some of my schoolmates made fun of me or pitied me. Although it was upsetting, I didn’t let them crush my dreams of studying."
One day, Seema’s brother told her about a vacancy with the Aarambha Leave No Girl Behind project. Seema applied for the job and was selected for the position. Before she started working for the project, Seema used to dream of helping her family financially, as her siblings do not provide any financial support.
At the CLC, Seema is teaching 23 out-of-school adolescent girls from her community, most of whom are married. She conducts classes in three groups every day, six days a week. For most of her students it is their first time in school, and several of them already have children. Seema says that she finds immense joy in seeing the girls interact with one another and open themselves up to learning new things. "The girls at the CLC also help me by writing on the board, bringing me materials that are too far for me to reach, and being cooperative, so I feel comfortable with them," she says.
Seema is happy that all her students have learned to read, write, and do some basic math. She hopes that they will continue to pursue an education even after the classes at the CLC are over, and says she would like to continue to support them in their studies.
Seema, however, has had to overcome a number of challenges to teach at the CLC. The facility is almost one kilometre from her home, and she used to walk there every day with the support of her cane. The rough roads in her village made her daily commute even more difficult. Due to their precarious financial situation, Seema’s family cannot afford calipers – a device that supports weak legs and is used for easier mobility. Seema says, "It might take more time, but I am saving my salary to buy them."
In the meantime, Seema has been paying one of her relatives NPR 800 (approximately USD $8) each month to drive her to and from the CLC. Seema confides that she would also like to use the money she has earned to buy some new clothes and pay for the treatment of her legs.
Seema’s hopes for the future
She is preparing to apply for a teaching job under a government program for people with disabilities, as she believes that education brings only positive changes to people’s lives.