Our first Masters’ degree holders
Higher education today is not such a big deal for many. But 50 years ago, it was something out of the extraordinary. We got to talk with three of the first students who did their Masters’ from Tribhuvan University way back in 2017 BS. Here’s what they had to say about their student life, ideologies, difficulties and life in general.
A history maker:
For many, Sahana Pradhan is just a political leader. However, they do not know that she is a pioneer in the field of education.
She is one of the first four girls to pass Class X for the first time in the history of Nepal. She was also the only girl among 72 students to pass BA in 2009 BS, one of the first Masters level degree holder in Economics from TU in 2017 BS.
Although she was born in Nepal, she did her early education in Myanmar (Burma then). When she came after completing Class VIII, girls in Nepal were not allowed to study. She too had to bear the brunt as her education was suspended for four years.
She was determined to change the mindset of the Nepali people about girls’ education, so she took part in a procession during the revolution of 2004 BS. She and her sister even left home as their family was against their decision. They were locked up for 16 days where they observed seven days’ hunger strike. The first girls’ school Padma Kanya Vidhyashram is a result of this protest. Although she was successful in this, she had to still struggle for her own education as the school was only for primary level students.
So, provision was made for a teacher to teach both her and her sister in their house itself.
She went on a door-to-door campaign for girls’ education and was the founder-member of two schools — Kanya Mandir HS School and Shanti Niketan HS School.
She has been working towards the development of education sector even in her professional life. She started to work as an instructor for primary level teachers, then taught in Trichandra College, Padma Kanya College and TU. She is still working for women empowerment.
In her own words:
Change in the country
We have achieved this democracy after a long struggle, but I still see leaders repeating the mistakes they made earlier. Both sides have signed many agreements but they are not implementing those effectively. The country is in a transition phase, anything can happen at such times.
We all should stay in certain discipline, creating havoc and burning tyres do not solve the problems.
Student life then and now
I can see that the student-teacher relation has deteriorated. Earlier it was about love and respect, which is not so anymore. And the degeneration has happened from both sides.
I had an excellent life in Burma. I still remember we used to go to school in a chariot. In Lucknow too I had a quality life and learned a lot. I could not experience a student life in Nepal as I studied in private here.
Being a woman
Women of this nation played a very huge role in the recent andolan but they are not getting what they deserve. Males dominate all the political parties. Even the interim constitution is not clear about the female participation.
A courageous daughter:
Her father always encouraged Bhuvaneshwari Satyal to pursue her education. In those days, girls’ education was almost non-existant in Nepal. It was courageous of her father to send her to Varda, India for education at the mere age of 12.
In Varda, she studied a social service oriented high school level course. She gave her SLC equivalent exams from the Allahabad board. Staying away from her family in another country made her bold and confident.
Even though she was the eldest child, she continued her further studies. She completed her Intermediate and Bachelors degree from Padma Kanya. Although the college was in Kathmandu, the Patna University held the exams, as there was no university in Nepal then.
Then in 2017 BS, she became a part of the history of education in Nepal.
She is not only a student of the first batch of Masters Level of TU, she is also among the very few who actually received their degree. She did her Masters in Political Science.
She dedicated her life to the field of social science. She has been involved in different organisations like, Nepal Cancer Relief Society, Nepal Red Cross Society, Bal Mandir, Centre for Child Studies and Development, Nepal TB Association of Nepal, ABC Nepal and many other organisations working for women and children welfare.
Even at this age, she is actively involved in all these organisations.
In her own words:
The present change
I believe change is a part of human nature, and this is something that had to happen. However, there are still many challenges as it is easy to say something but difficult to implement. To make things work, we should keep the national interest before self-interest.
Their first priority should be education. As we all know time waits for none, they should keep this in mind too. They should not let anything hamper their education. Students should be students, and thus they should not let politics hamper their education.
Sudent life then and now
A lot has changed. In our times, we used to follow our teachers blindly. In a way, we mugged up our courses without much analysis. However, the education system has become more practical and there is more exposure for students.
We also did not have as much choice as today’s students have.
There used to be very few students and if the professor would be late, they would just run away from the class and go back home. I found it quite amusing that even Masters’-level students would run away from class.
Once a male student from my class made a comment that being a woman, it was quite easy for me to pass as most of the teachers were males. This really annoyed me and I argued with him that we get what we deserve. I also told him to take back his words.
Being a woman
My father always encouraged me — he even wanted me to become a doctor.
I did get admission in Trichandra College. However, when I went to the college, the entire class was full of boys only. I just could not find courage to go in.
Even though I was allowed to study, I was not allowed to go to the college alone. One of the male members of my family used to go with me.
I never liked this. Once I was getting late for my exams, and an uncle who was supposed to go with me was taking a long time to get ready.
I just lost my patience and went to the college all on my own. And I did get a scolding from my father in the evening when I returned home from college.
A Terai star:
Throughout his life, Damodar Sharma has been working in the education sector. Coming from an agriculture-based family in Terai, he left the family tradition by taking up education seriously.
He did his schooling in Birgunj. After completing his intermediate and bachelor’s level from Patna University, he could have easily stayed in the comfort of his home and helped his father. But his zest for further education brought him to Kathmandu. Here he had to stay in rented rooms and eat in hotels. However, for him nothing mattered as long as it was for education.
He is one of the first batch of Masters’ degree holders in Political Science from TU. Not only this, he is also the first person from his district to get a Masters’ degree. He was appointed in TU as a lecturer at Thakur Ram Campus in Birgunj.
That was just the beginning — he went on to become the member of TU academy council, coordination committee (Samanvya Mahashakha) and the Chief of Birgunj campus.
For his constant contribution and his dedication in the area of education, he was awarded the Dirga Sewa Padak by TU. At present, he is a member of a committee for senior citizens under the ministry for women and children and social welfare.
In his own words:
The present change
I believe the change is for better, and the country is going in the right direction. However, I feel that political maturity is lacking in our political parties. Even the Maoists have to be more stable. While bringing in the changes, it is necessary to look upon the socio-political-economic condition of our nation. Above all, we need to curb corruption. I think the focus should be in developing sectors like tourism, small-scale manufacturing.
In general, people often tend to be a bit more revolutionary in their student life. In my view, the involvement of students in the recent Jana Andoolan was necessary. Moreover, it proved to be fruitful.
Student life then and now
Earlier parents used to send their children to Kolkata for be-tter, higher education. However, these days Nepali students are going to so many countries to pursue their higher studies.
Compared to our times, there are a lot more schools and of better standard too. But higher-level education needs improvement. I agree there are more universities now but they are more business-oriented than quality education. In recent times, we have seen this surge in technical education institutes but the country does not have enough employment generating capacity. So many are going abroad, this is causing a brain drain.
In my class, there were two of us from Terai — Jibeshwor Lakhe and me. As we used to have our food in hotels, our friends from Kathmandu would at time invite us to their homes for meals. Two of our friends’ fathers were in the system, so I used to be a bit scared while going to their homes.
I remember once Rishikesh Shah had come to guide us on the foreign policy of Nepal. He sent us to Kausi Khana (then foreign ministry) to look at some papers. There we met Chhatra Bikram Rana, his daughter was also in our class. As soon as she saw him, she ran away. When he saw us, he just asked us, why we were there. However, he sent us back without giving us any document. We were scared to ask him again, so we just came back.