Obituary | Laxman Rajbanshi: Reformer of Nepali education



Obituary | Laxman Rajbanshi: Reformer of Nepali education

Rajbanshi, who faced expulsion from various schools and colleges in his student years, would soon transform himself into a reformer of the country’s education system

During the 1930s, education in the country was limited to those within the royal palace. The common people were denied access to schools.

But Laxman Rajbanshi got the opportunity to study at a one of the finest schools in the country thanks to his father’s service to the palace.

Although Rajbanshi could now study at Durbar High School, he was uninterested in attending classes. For he had found his calling even before his matriculation (SEE) examination.

In 1952, menial workers in the valley launched protests demanding salary-hike. The police brutally suppressed their agitation. School students, including Rajbanshi, who had also joined the protests, were arrested with only a few days to go for his Grade X exams.

Rajbanshi was charged with ‘engaging in criminal activities’ and given three years in jail. But thanks to a generous judge, his sentence was reduced to three months. And he also did appear in the exam—becoming the first one to do so from jail.

He failed in two subjects but later passed in the third division. Interestingly, he completed his intermediate in arts (high school) in the third division from the then Durbar College, now Tahachal Campus.

Always having a soft spot for the poor and downtrodden, it was only a matter of time before Rajbanshi was attracted to communist ideology. When he was pursuing his BA, he was elected chair of the student wing of the Communist Party of Nepal’s Tri Chandra College unit.

He had played a key role in starting an MA program at Durbar College. For this, Rajbanshi had to leave Tri Chandra and join Durbar College as the college needed to have a certain number of students to start the MA program. He was later expelled from the college for his involvement in communist politics.

Rajbanshi then joined Shankerdev Campus to complete his BA, again in the third division. He enrolled at the Tribhuvan University for his MA but there also, he was blacklisted due to his political ideology.

It was because of the same political ideology that the famous communist ideologue Pushpa Lal Shrestha and Rajbanshi developed a special bond. In 1959, Shrestha sent him to Palpa to campaign for the party ahead of elections. Right after the election, he received a telegram asking him to return to Kathmandu immediately. On reaching home, he found that Shrestha had found him a bride, his sister-in-law. He tied the knot with Sovana Rajbanshi in 1959.

Rajbansji, who faced expulsion from various schools and colleges in his student years, would soon transform himself into a reformer of the country’s education system. It all started when he was appointed headmaster of Aanand Kuti School; one of his students soon topped the SLC board. Those who knew him say his focus on practical education was a totally new experiment in the country.

In 1973, he was appointed principal of Siddhartha Vanasthali, a school mired in mismanagement with just 72 students. The teachers had been deprived of their pay for three months and the school owed Rs 36,000 to its debtors.

But the school, which would become synonymous with Rajbanshi’s name, saw its fortunes change when the veteran educationist took over its reigns. It would soon became one of the best in Nepal. There’s a saying: “Every hospital in the country has at least one doctor who went to Siddhartha Vanasthali School.”

Rajbanshi, who also worked as an advisor to the education minister in 1990, was elected to the first Constituent Assembly under the proportional system. He even presided over one of its meeting in the absence of the speaker and the deputy speaker.

Rajbanshi has numerous books to his name. He has written books and articles in Newari, Nepali, and English.

A couple of weeks ago, he slipped from the stairs and fainted in his home, family members say. Rajbanshi was rushed to Norvic Hospital, Thapathali, where he received treatment for 12 days. He died from a blood clot in his head. Rajbanshi is survived by his wife, two sons and a daughter.