A 92-year-old Indian woman went to school for the first time six months ago and was finally able to learn to read and write, attracting followers among the women of her village, the local press reported on Wednesday.
Salima Khan, born around 1931 and married at the age of 14, two years before India’s independence in 1947, had always dreamed of knowing how to read and write. When she was a child, there was no school in her village.
Six months ago, accompanied on the way to school by her grandson’s wife in Bulandshahr, in the state of Uttar Pradesh (north), she finally began her education alongside students younger than her by at least eight decades.
Ms Khan’s story gained attention after a video surfaced on social media in which she counted from 1 to 100.
“My grandchildren used to trick me into giving them more money because I didn’t know how to count currency notes,” she told the Times of India daily. “Those days are over.”
India’s literacy rate is around 73%, according to the 2011 census.
“His story reinforces the conviction that the pursuit of knowledge has no age limit,” education manager Lakshmi Pandey told AFP.
Volunteers participating in a government Education for All initiative had identified Ms. Khan as a potential student and encouraged her to enroll at the school, Ms. Pandey said.
According to the school’s principal, Pratibha Sharma, teachers were initially “hesitant” about teaching Ms. Khan, but were soon won over by her “passion” for studying.
“We did not have the heart to refuse her,” added Ms. Sharma to “Times of India”.
Since her schooling, 25 women from her village, including two of her daughters-in-law, have also started taking literacy classes, Ms. Sharma continued.
According to Guinness World Records, Kenyan Kimani Ng’ang’a Maruge is the oldest person to have completed primary school at age 84 in 2004.
Since deceased, this former Mau Mau guerrilla fought against the British colonial forces. He had wanted to go to school so he could count his money and read the Bible.