From Bricks to Books

2015 LEADer Prekchhya learned an important lesson about education from a young girl determined to exceed all expectations.

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This post was written by Prekchhya Shrestha, 2015 LEADer and Women LEAD Blogger

What stops someone from getting an education? Is it money? Gender? Work? Or social background? I often pondered these questions growing up and was curious to know how some people managed to tackle all these problems. In the process of finding my answers, last year I meet a young girl from Nepal who subsided all these social barriers and proved that all you need is a strong determination to learn: 16-year-old Buddha Maya Lama, who works in a brick factory to support her family and still manages to top her classes every single term.

unnamedA year ago, I met Buddha Maya for the first time while conducting Women LEAD’s School Leadership Program at her public school, Adarsha Azad Higher Secondary School. During the duration of the program, my co-LEADer and I, with the help of Women LEAD, aimed to get the participants into an exploration of leadership, personality development, and youth issues.

While I expected it to be a good way to give back to the society, what I discovered after the completion of the School Leadership Program was that the experience was a two-way learning process. All the 31 participants taught me various important life lessons through their personal stories, such as Buddha.

Buddha Maya’s story might sound like any other normal teenager who goes to school at six in the morning and returns home at five. Yet, what makes her daily life more challenging is the intense work she does after she returns from school.

During high demand seasons, every evening, she heads towards the brick factory along with her parents. She walks to the direction of the dark, black smokes rising out of the chimney, which soon form a layer of thick clouds on the sky above her. Her path is then surrounded by the serially arranged bricks waiting to be burnt in the kiln. Her job there usually consists of filling up the wooden mould with clay and then carrying the piles of bricks to the open space for drying in the sun. She gets exhausted by the end of the day but such daily routine becomes a compulsion when one has to support the family expenses.

However, that doesn’t stop her from gaining her education. Her hard day at work has taught her that education is the only way out which can ensure a better future for herself and her community. Coming from a society where girls have almost no rights to choose anything for themselves, she feels immensely fortunate that her family supports girls’ education. She understands the need to maintain top positions at her class in order to justify the worth of teaching a girl child.

Buddha is fascinated by the world of books and knowledge. When I asked about her aim in life, she said, “I love learning science, especially biology. Therefore, I dream of becoming a nurse so that I can serve the society.” She smiled at the thought of her future goals and added, “As my parents gave me this opportunity to go to school despite of our family restrictions, I believe that now it becomes my responsibility to work for the education and empowerment of girls who are compelled to sacrifice their education due to their workload or family conditions. Girls are usually suppressed in our society and are considered weak. I believe that education is an amazing tool to help girls realize their true potentials and become independent citizens of the country.”

Indeed, to receive an education in a country like Nepal where only 17.9% of female population obtain secondary education, it becomes our responsibility to contribute to girls education in whichever way we can. If we dream of having a prosperous future for our country and the world, both our boys and girls should be ensured with their rights to education. Education can work as a light for girls living in the darkness of inequality, ignorance and social malpractices and Buddha Maya Lama is a great testimony to this.

Buddha Maya’s story and ideologies made me rethink the question, “What stops someone from getting an education?” If there are girls out there ready to invest anything for the sake of education, there should be no such excuses to stop us from learning, exploring and expanding our knowledge. So, no matter how difficult or crazy your dreams might sound, just give your all, take that risk and dare to be different. “Education empowers you with a choice. Go! Choose your own destiny.”

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