Keralite 96-year-old wows by topping literacy exam

As many as 43,330 candidates appeared for the ‘Aksharalaksham’ examination conducted by the Kerala State Literacy Mission

Thiruvananthapuram: Kerala’s achievements on the literacy front got its latest feather in the cap from an unlikely corner — a 96-year-old woman who appeared for a statewide literacy test this week beat the 43,000-odd people who took the test, to top the list with 98 marks out of 100.

The nonagenarian, Karthiyani Amma, is a native of Haripad in Alappuzha district, famed for its backwaters and the houseboats that ply on its serene waters.

As many as 43,330 candidates appeared for the ‘Aksharalaksham’ (Malayalam for “literacy for the masses”) examination conducted by the Kerala State Literacy Mission, of whom 42,933 passed the examination, with Karthiyani Amma topping the list of successful candidates.

Amma was the star attraction at an event earlier this week in the state capital when chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan felicitated the toppers.

Unfazed by the journalists and television cameras clamouring for her comments, Amma said she hoped to continue her studies.

The examination that she passed is equivalent to Class 4, and she said she hoped to continue studying to the level of Class 10.

When a reporter asked her what she intended to do after clearing Class 10 examination, she readily answered: “Perhaps get a job after that”, adding that she also fancied learning to work on a computer.

The Aksharalaksham examination tests reading, writing and basic mathematical skills of the participants. The programme was launched in January this year, when India marked its annual Republic Day. The programme is targeted at taking Kerala’s literacy rate to 100 per cent.

In early 1991, Kerala had made global headlines when the state was declared, according to Unesco norms, as a fully-literate state, which technically means over 90 per cent of the people are literate.

The Aksharalaksham programme particularly targets marginalised groups like tribal persons, fishermen community and other less-privileged sections of society.

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