Compliments and accolades are pouring in for 104-year-old Kuttiyamma who aced a preliminary literacy examination conducted by the Kerala government last week.
Kuttiyamma, a native of Ayarkunnam panchayat in Kottayam district, scored 89 out of 100 marks in an examination conducted as a part of ‘Mikavulsavam’, a project of the Kerala State Literacy Mission to test preliminary knowledge of students. Those clearing the examination with flying colours, like Kuttiyamma, are eligible to sit for the fourth-grade equivalent literacy exam. As part of the project, such examinations are held in every panchayat in the state.
State Education Minister V Sivankutty congratulated the centenarian for her grit and determination. He said that Kuttiyamma showed that a person’s age is no hurdle in making an entry into the world of letters, words and knowledge. “If there is a mind to achieve goals, age is just a number,” he said.
Once the results came out on Nov 10, the members of Ayarkunnam panchayat council visited Kuttiyamma’s residence and felicitated her. District leaders of the CPI(M) and the BJP also made their way to her home to congratulate her on her achievement.
Saksharata prerak Rehna, who trained Kuttiyamma in reading, writing and other aspects of the literacy examination, told indianexpress.com, “She was very interested in learning. She used to read the newspaper a bit. Her family members told me that she was able to put letters together and read. But she didn’t know how to write. So, I taught her to write her name and address. She picked up very fast.”
Rehna said she taught Kuttiyamma and six other students for about two months prior to the examination.
Kuttiyamma, she said, is very active and could move around the house on her own without anyone’s help. “However, she is a bit hard of hearing and her eyesight is weak during the night,” she added.
“Maths is her favourite subject. In her youth, she used to manage a shop selling vegetables so she is quite good with numbers and calculations. She got full marks in maths. The only section where she could not score well was in which she was asked to write about her local panchayat and the state of Kerala. By then, she was quite tired. But she was very happy with her result because she didn’t expect to score so high,” Rehna said.
The literacy exam tested participants on maths, Malayalam and general knowledge.
Rejini Biju, Kuttiyamma’s grand-daughter-in-law, said the centenarian has seen five generations of her family and owed her long lifespan to the discipline in her personal habits.
“She has a strict food regimen. She eats only breakfast and dinner, that too, in small quantities. She has an affinity for tapioca and fish. She doesn’t sleep during the day and keeps herself active and engaged. That’s why she has no major health problems like diabetes or hypertension that we normally associate with elderly people,” Rejini said.
Kerala’s literacy programme that aims to impart reading, writing and other educational skills especially to those who could not go to school for various reasons has been a stupendous success. In recent years, the programme has regularly hit headlines with nonagenarians and centenarians, most often women, scoring high marks in equivalency examinations.
Last year, Bhageerathi Amma, a resident of Kollam district, was awarded the Centre’s Nari Shakti Puraskar for her contribution towards women empowerment. At 105, she was the oldest learner in the state’s literacy programme and cracked the Class IV equivalency exam with a 75% score. In July this year, she passed away at the age of 107.