Kerala’s oldest learner, who passed a state literacy mission examination at the age of 105, died in Kollam district on Friday. Bhageerathi Amma was 107 and leaves behind the inspirational story of her passion to pursue learning.
Bhageerathi was awarded the Centre’s Nari Shakti Puraskar in 2020 for her contribution towards women empowerment. That year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi lauded her in a Mann Ki Baat episode saying: “She is a big source of inspiration and I pay respects to her.”
Hailing from Trikkaruva village in Kollam, Bhageerathi only had faint memories of her school days — her formal education abruptly ended at Class 3 when she lost her mother and was burdened with the task of raising her younger siblings. She lost her husband in her mid-thirties and was left with six children to look after.
By the time Bhageerathi began attending literacy classes — on the encouragement of a literacy mission worker — one of her six children and three of her 15 grandchildren were dead. She was then living with the fifth generation of her family.
She passed the Class 4-equivalent examination, which had papers on Environment, Mathematics and Malayalam, with a 75 per cent score. She was the oldest person to clear it.
Literacy ‘prerak’ S N Sherly said Bhageerathi had expressed her intention to study further and even attend the Class 10-equivalent literacy mission programme.
Condoling her death, Governor Arif Mohammed Khan said Bhageerathi personified sheer determination to become literate.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said she was an inspirational personality who stood as a symbol of women’s empowerment and literacy movement in society.
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