Girls prepare for exam on hospital bedThe School Leaving Certificate examinations start in three days.
On Monday, she lay on the bed, wrapped in sheets of gauze and rolls of bandage, trying to close her eyes that would not. The acid has corroded her eyelids, the right one more severely than the left. When it is a strain just to close and open her eyes, she cannot read a book, a few of which lay stacked in a drawer of the bedside table. Her mother, who is by her side all the time, cannot help—she is illiterate. Neither can her father, who studied up to the fifth grade, or her younger brother, who quit school after the seventh grade. No one is reading to her.
What Sangita does then, to prepare for the looming exams, is try hard to remember what she had studied before the attack took place. Since her right arm, together with her right thigh, recently received a skin graft, she will have a scribe during the tests. An eighth grader from her school, Shanti Nikunja, will write what she dictates. But that is little consolation. Memories are faulty and unreliable, and Sangita is frightened that she will have nothing for the young boy to write down.
“I think I will fail in Maths,” she says.
But giving up is not an option. Her mother, father, brother, friends—everyone has asked her to defer the exams by a year. Get healed first, they say. But Sangita wants to face the challenge now. And so does her friend, Sima Basnet, who was with Sangita when the attack happened and whose face got burned by the acid as well. It has been five days since Sima started turning the pages of her textbooks.
“When I sit upright, my forehead tingles and feels heavy,” says Sima. “I hope I’ll be able to sit through hours-long exams.”