A 104-year-old from India’s Kerala state has become one of the world's oldest students after passing a basic literacy test.
Kuttiyamma Konthi from Kottayam in the southern coastal state scored 89 out of 100 in the Kerala State Literacy Mission test – equivalent to primary level education – on November 10.
The annual test is organised under the state government’s ambitious literacy project aimed at lifelong learning and reducing the rate of illiteracy in Kerala.
The state has the country's highest literacy rate at 96.2 per cent, with Kottayam the highest literacy district in Kerala.
It invests heavily in education and sponsors several projects including a flagship programme for adult education. In 2019-20, Kerala earmarked 15 per cent of its annual budget for education.
More than 500 people sat the test, with Kuttiyamma being the oldest. She took a three-hour reading, writing and arithmetic test in the regional Malayalam language.
The centenarian confidently attempted all the questions and even sang an entire song in response to a question that needed the respondent to sing four lines of any poem.
Her feat was shared by the state’s education minister V Sivankutty on Twitter.
“104-year-old Kuttiyamma from Kottayam has scored 89/100 in the Kerala State Literacy Mission’s test. Age is no barrier to enter the world of knowledge,” Mr Sivankutty wrote.
Kuttiyamma, a mother of five who also has one grandson, did not attend school and married at the age of 16. Although she could read some short words, she could not write.
She enrolled in the literacy programme at the village council last year and was assigned a teacher who provided her regular lessons at her home to hone her skills in preparation for the exams.
“She is a very sharp woman. It was very easy for me to teach her,” Rehana John told The National. “I gave her two-hour classes every evening at her home. She was always excited for the classes.
“Earlier she could read small words but now she can easily read entire paragraphs. She is overjoyed after the results.”
Kuttiyamma can now write letters and is hoping to continue her studies.
After clearing her primary levels with top grades, Kuttiyamma can sit for the fourth standard exams, district project co-ordinator VV Mathew said.
“She has attained eligibility to write the class four examination. She is a role model and motivation to all women for adult education,” Mr Mathew told The National.
In 2020, Bhageerathi Amma, 105, from the state’s Kollam district, became the oldest student in the country after passing the primary-level test.