Kampagne 2021 Nepal | © Narendra Shrestha

The Limits of a Life Without Education

FROM: Susanne Strässle – 02. December 2021
© Narendra Shrestha

Sundar Thapa, 33, is a street vendor in Kathmandu, Nepal. He shared his story with Helvetas.   

Ever since I was small, my family worried about how to make ends meet. The soil in my family's fields in Dolakha (a district east of Kathmandu at the foot of the Himalayas) was so poor that we could not grow enough to feed our family for even half the year. We were so hard up that we had no time to think of school and education. I completed compulsory education, but even then I had to work in other farmers’ fields to buy the things I needed for school. But there was no way I could carry on going to school and I never learned a trade.  

Thirteen years ago, at the age of 20, I came to Kathmandu. Today I sell sunglasses, watches and other small gifts to bus passengers on the street. I have a lot of trouble making a living. What I earn is not enough to support my wife and our four-year-old child. My parents, who still live in the village in Dolakha, also need my support, especially when they get sick.  

In the busy streets of Kathmandu near the bus station, Sundar Thapa tries to sell watches and sunglasses to passengers.
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© Narendra Shrestha
His sparse income must provide for his wife, child and himself, as well as his parents in the village. © Narendra Shrestha
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I have taken out a loan of 16,000 rupees ($213) for the goods I sell. I wish I could invest more to grow my business. If I had a fixed location, I would certainly be successful. But I can't remain in one place. The police often make life difficult for sellers like me, because street vending is strictly regulated.  

What opportunities have I been given in my life? Honestly, none at all that would have enabled me to build a better future. If I could have gone to school longer, I would certainly be better off today. I would still like to do an apprenticeship. But a full-time education is unthinkable. I have to work and support my family – their survival depends on me. 

But my daughter should definitely go to school and get a good education. Preferably something technical. She should never have to suffer the way I am suffering now. 

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