When Karthyayani Amma decided to take the first academic test of her life at the ripe old age of 96, hardly anybody gave her even an outside chance of clearing it.
But breaking the stereotype of an elderly village woman who never went to school, the frail-looking nonagenarian from the coastal Cheppad village of Alapuzza district in Kerala, came out with flying colours--topping the examination with a staggering 98 per cent marks.
Amma, a mother of six children of whom only two are alive, six grandchildren and seven great grandchildren, now wants to chase her dream of learning how to use a computer.
Her husband died 57 years ago.
Amma scored full marks of 30 each in mathematics and reading and 38 out of 40 in writing in the three-module exam under the "Aksharalaksham" programme of the state-run Kerala State Literacy Mission Authority (KSLMA), officials said.
The proud grand old woman received her certificate from Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan at a function here Thursday.
"I want to continue with my studies...want to study at least up to 10th standard and clear the exam with good marks. I also want to learn computer," the woman who did odd jobs like cleaning a temple to look after her family following her husband's death, told PTI.
Having cleared the Aksharalaksham exam, she has got direct entry into the 4th grade of the equivalency course of the Literacy Mission. Once she has cleared the 6-month 4th grade course, she can join the 7th grade equivalency programme and subsequently the 10th standard course, officials at the Mission said.
She says she drew inspiration from her 60-year-old daughter Ammini who recently joined a literacy class of the Mission and cleared the exam.
When Amma, who could never have formal education due to financial constraints, voiced her interest about joining the class, the entire family encouraged her to pursue her dream.
Sathi, the Mission's 'prerak' (instructor), said she was very particular about attending classes and asked many questions to clear her doubts.
"She regularly attended the classes....was very cool and calm even when she was going to write her first-ever exam of her life," Sathi told PTI.
He grandchildren and great grandchildren helped her with studies enthusiastically.
Sathi hopes given Amma's perseverence she would realise her dream of passing class 10 by the time she turns 100.
Sajitha, Amma's granddaughter, said the family was excited and proud of her achievement.
"I am a school teacher. As a family member and as a teacher, it is a proud moment for me. I am excited that I can inspire my students by sharing her story with them," she said.
P S Sreekala, the Literacy Mission Director, said Amma has become a role model for thousands of people who wish to be part of literacy programmes.
"The present phase of the initiative has covered 2000 wards across the state. In the next phase, we are planning to join hands with local bodies and expand the programme," she said.
Sreekala said the Mission was aimed at achieving full literacy in the state over four years.
According to the 2011 census, there were around 18.5 lakh illiterate people in the state.
"Aksharalaksham" is the flagship programme of the Left Front government for achieving total literacy. Of the 43,330 candidates who appeared for the test 42,933 cleared it.
The examinees are tested for reading and writing skills besides mathematics. To pass the exam, one has to secure at least 9 marks out of 30 in reading, 12 out of 40 in writing and 9 out of 30 in mathematics.