Girl, 13, begins master's degree
Published 16/09/2013 | 13:26
An Indian girl of 13 is studying for a master's degree after her father sold the family's land to pay her tuition fees.
Sushma Verma was able to finish high school aged seven and a degree in microbiology at 13 only with the sacrifices of her uneducated parents.
They live with her three younger siblings in a cramped room in Lucknow, the capital of Uttar Pradesh state, and survivie on her father's daily wage of up to 200 rupees (less than £2.20) for building work.
Her father sold 10,000 square feet of land for 25,000 rupees (about £250) to cover some of her fees. The rest will come from a charity.
Sushma lives a modest life with her three younger siblings and her parents - eating, sleeping and studying alongside them in a cramped single-room apartment.
It is not a great atmosphere for studying, she admitted. "There are a lot of dreams ... All of them cannot be fulfilled."
But having no television and little else at home has advantages, she said. "There is nothing to do but study."
Sushma begins her studies next week at Lucknow's B. R. Ambedkar Central University, although her father is already ferrying her to and from campus each day on his bicycle so she can meet teachers before classes begin.
Her first choice was to become a doctor, but she cannot take the test to qualify for medical school until she is 18. "So I opted for the MSc and then I will do a doctorate," she said.
Millions of Indian children are still not enrolled in primary school, and many are girls whose parents choose to hold them back in favour of advancing their sons. Some from conservative village cultures are expected only to get married, for which their families will go into debt to pay exorbitant dowry payments, even though they are illegal.