In the city of Kottayam, in the south Indian state of Kerala, Kuttiyamma, a 104 year-old woman, has learned to read and write. Despite being over 100 years old, Kuttiyamma is incredibly active, and still tends to her garden and feeds her chickens. The centenarian had always wanted to learn to become literate, however, never had the chance after becoming married at the age of sixteen.
“I always wanted to learn… but I could never study because I had to do household chores,” she said. Kuttiyamma also revealed that she had always wanted to become a teacher. When she reached the age of 103 Kuttiyamma was given the opportunity to learn. Watching her great grandchildren reading and writing gave her the inspiration.
“I would sit next to my grandchildren while they studied and observe carefully. Then a teacher said she would give me books if I was interested. I read those books over and over again. I asked questions if I couldn’t understand something.”
Volunteer teacher M Rehna taught Kuttiyamma in her home every morning and evening. Kuttiyamma’s only condition to learning was that the teacher spoke loudly so that she could hear.
Passing with flying colours
Amazingly, after taking a literacy exam Kuttiyamma scored 89 out of 100 and said she didn’t find the exam difficult. She is now planning to take the next exam.
In 1989 Kottayam was declared the first city with 100% literacy. It is also known as the ‘city of letters’. The city is on a mission to ensure that those who missed education opportunities in the past can have the chance to learn later in life. Education centers are run by the local government, and offers opportunities to older people such as Kuttiyamma.
Despite her recent achievements, Kuttiyamma has one wish. “I hope I live long enough to see my grandchildren succeed and get good jobs.”