A 105-year-old woman from Kerala appeared for the fourth standard equivalency examination conducted by the state literacy mission. Bhageerathi Amma, who always yearned to study and gain knowledge, had to give up her dream of educating herself after her mother passed away as she had to take care of her younger siblings.
Fate dealt her another blow when she lost her husband in her 30s following which the entire responsiblity of bringing up her six children, including 4 daugthers, fell on her shoulders.
As she took up the fourth standard examination at her home in Kollam, about 70 kms from here, Bhageerathi Amma became the oldest 'equivalency learner' in the Kerala State Literacy Mission programme to date, Mission Director, P S Srikala said.
Mission's Resource person, Vasanth Kumar told PTI that since Bhageerathi Amma had difficulty in writing, she took three days to complete the 3 question papers on Environment, Maths and Malayalam and was helped by her youngest daughter.
Even at this advanced age, she has sharp memory, has no problems relating to eye sight and sings well, Kumar said adding Amma was very happy to appear for the examination and excited as she had left her formal education at the age of 9 when she was in class three. One of her six children and 3 of her 15 grandchildren are no more.
The woman has 12 grand and great grandchildren. Bhageerathi Amma has one grievance that she had not yet received either widow or old age pension as she has no Aadhar card and was hoping that authorities would take steps to ensure that she gets the pension.
Last year, 96-year-old Karthiyayani Amma had secured high marks in a literacy examination held in the state. She was the oldest candidate who appeared for the "Aksharalaksham", a flag ship programme of the state-run Kerala State Literacy Mission Authority and scored 98 marks out of 100.
A native of Cheppad village of Haripad in Alappuzha district, the nonagenarian had received an "Aksharalaksham certificate" from Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan as a token of recognition for her achievement.
The woman has become a role model for thousands of people who wish to be part of the literacy programmes. The aim of the Literacy Mission is to make the state fully literate in four years.
According to the 2011 census, there were around 18.5 lakh illiterates in the state. To wipe out illiteracy completely, the Mission has chalked out several programmes, especially among the marginalised groups like tribal, fisherfolk and slum dwellers.