A new ‘School for Grannies’ is operating in India, and is the only one of its kind in the country. The school called Aajibaichi Shala, is allowing older women to learn to read and write, while also helping them restore their dignity and self-esteem.
Ansuya Deshmukh is a student at the school, and at 90 years old, she is finally learning to write her name. “All my live I have been illiterate,” she told the Sydney Morning Herald. “It’s like being only half human. But what could I do? My parents were too poor to send me to school. Now I can die knowing I can write my name,” she said.
Deshmukh attends the school with her youngest granddaughter every morning. Deshmukh is the eldest in her class of 28 grannies. These women, aged above 60 have never been to school before and are now learning to read, write and do basic arithmetic.
India’s school for grannies – a place where older women reclaim their dignity https://t.co/KOInCdFzWe
— smh.com.au (@smh) February 4, 2017
The School is the initiative of local primary school teacher Yogendra Bangar. He said that he was inspired to create the school when he realised during a recent religious celebration that a lot of the elderly women were unable to read the holy scriptures. Bangar said that despite the important roles these women had in the community, no one was helping them. “They had been wives and mothers and home markers and looked after everyone, but no one gave any thought to their desires,” he says.
The women attend classes every afternoon, dressed in their uniform of a bright pink sari. The uniform is breaking the taboo of that widows in India must only wear white to show they are still grieving their husbands, and are not allowed to enjoy life.
Bangar hopes that the experience will encourage other grannies in neighbouring villages to attend. He also says that the program teaches valuable lessons to the younger students about respecting the elderly. “A grandmother is a diamond. Value her, is our message,” he says.