Kerala’s 96-year old woman tops state literacy test
Kerala’s 96-year old Karthyayani Amma, the oldest ever to take the state literacy exam for school drop-outs, says will crack Class 10 exam before turning 100
Bengaluru: The Kerala government on Thursday honoured 96-year old Karthyayani Amma, the oldest ever to take the state’s literacy exam for school drop-outs yet scored the highest marks (98 out of 100) in Wednesday’s literacy test for school drop-outs. The woman’s story has become a totem for the state’s high focus on literacy and has gone viral on social media.
Chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan invited her, along with other top scorers, to his office in Thiruvananthapuram, and honoured the achievement. On her way back to the village, Haripad in Kerala’s Alappuzha, Amma told Mint that she is looking forward to breaking another target before she turns 100.
She said she wants to become the person to score the highest marks in Class 10 board exams for school drop-outs. The literacy test she just cleared is on par with lower primary school tests, analysing one’s basic writing, reading and analytical skills.
“I’ll pass Class 10 by the time I touch 100,” Karthyayani Amma said, in Malayalam, over the phone.
The story of her success resonates well with the larger story of Kerala’s success with literacy drives and its near cent literacy rate, a target that remains out of touch for many Indian states. In 1990, then prime minister V.P. Singh officially recognized its Ernakulam district to be the country’s first fully literate district, and in 2016, it became the first state to achieve 100% primary education—all thanks to the continuous literacy drives, starting from 1980s.
“She has become like a film star, the entire village is celebrating her success,” said over the phone in Malayalam K. Sathi, the teacher who walked her through the literacy mission, called ‘Aksharajalakam’. The programme, launched on 26 January, is aimed to bring literacy unto the last illiterate person in Kerala, counted to be around 18 lakh according to the 2011 Census.
Hariharan Unnithan, the district coordinator of the programme, credited the success to Karthyayani Amma’s unique “thirst for knowledge”.
“As a kid, she could not study in a school for several reasons. Then she became a sweeper. Now, she was envied by seeing kids going to school in her neighbourhood. That’s when we appeared before her for a survey and she expressed her wish to us,” said Hariharan, in Malayalam.
“We provided all support we could, but it is largely her enthusiasm that made her a topper. Because of her age, she had problems remembering things. But she just kept revising things,” he said, over the phone.
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