A mother to four, a grandmother to two, but a student for life. A day after Meghalaya’s Lakyntiew Syiemlieh learnt that she had cleared her Class XII exams — 30 years after she dropped out of school — the 50-year-old has already decided on her future plans: a Bachelor’s degree in her favourite language, Khasi. “I understand the importance of education — without it we are simply nothing,” said Syiemlieh, on the phone from her village Umsning Lumumpih in Meghalaya’s Ri Bhoi district.
Syiemlieh was one of the 24,267 students who appeared for the state board’s Higher Secondary School Leaving Certificate Arts stream examination earlier this year, the results of which were declared on Monday. “I got a third division but I am very happy,” said Syiemlieh, who lives with her son, daughter, and two granddaughters. “My children are so thrilled that they started shouting, hugging and kissing me when the results were declared yesterday. In fact, it was the happiest day of my life.”
In 1989, Syiemlieh’s struggle with mathematics led her to drop out of school, after she was unable to clear her Class X exams. “After that, life took a different course — I got married at 21, had four kids. Unfortunately, the marriage did not work out,” said Syiemlieh, adding that she supported her family as a single mother by teaching children Khasi at a local school in her village.
Until in 2015, Syiemlieh felt the need to get back to school. “I enrolled myself for evening classes at the National Institute of Open Schooling at Umsning, and two years later, I managed to pass Class X,” she said, “I had to juggle both the job and classes, so it was difficult.”
That is why for Class XII, Syiemlieh took permission from the school authorities for a special gap year which she used to attend classes at the Balawan College in Umsning. “It was crucial I attended school because that was the only way I would be able to concentrate and do well since class 12 is important,” she said.
“To be honest, we were surprised. Sometimes, we have 30-year-olds, who have just gotten married, attending classes,” said Father Laurence, Principal, Balawan College. “But a 50-year-old, and with her level of enthusiasm and dedication, is just rare.”
So for the last year, Syiemlieh, dressed in the college uniform, attended classes with those nearly three decades younger than her. She chose Khasi, Political Science, Economics, Education and English as her subjects.
The kids at school referred to Syiemlieh as ‘’Mei’, which is Khasi for mother. “We all became great friends, I would attend class, go for field trips, take part in dance competitions, sing with them,” said Syiemlieh. All the while, her daughter, Ibaphylla, helped around the house. “I am just so happy and proud to have her as my mother — she is talented, inspiring and caring,” said the 28-year-old Ibaphylla.
Preparing for the examinations though, meant a lot of late nights for Syiemlieh. “I managed my time since I had to keep up with my other responsibilities. At present, I am a member of a Self Help Group (SHG) in my village and I also hold the post of Master Book Keeper( MBK) of the village organisation,” she said.
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