"her passion to study in the autumn of her life made us change our minds."
A 92-year-old Indian woman has learned how to read and write after going to school for the first time.
Salima Khan, who got married at 14, had a lifelong dream of being able to read and write.
There were no schools in her village and she soon became a mother, meaning she had other priorities.
The resident of Uttar Pradesh’s Bulandshahr said:
“Every day, I would wake up to the joyful screams of students entering the government primary school in front of my house in Chawli village, Bulandshahr, yet I never stepped inside though I kept burning with the desire to study all along.”
In January 2023, she began attending a primary school, studying alongside children eight decades younger than her.
The headmistress of the primary school, Dr Pratibha Sharma, recalled when Salima explained her plans to study.
She said: “Salima came to us around eight months ago and requested that she be allowed to sit in the classroom.
“It’s a difficult task to educate such an elderly person, so we were a bit hesitant initially.
“However, her passion to study in the autumn of her life made us change our minds. We didn’t have the heart to refuse her.”
Describing her first day of school, the Indian woman revealed that when she was given a book, her hands were shaking as she did not know how to hold a pen.
Despite the nerves, Salima was extremely happy to be learning.
Salima took a literacy test and passed, officially declaring her literate.
Salima can also sign her name and count currency notes, something her grandchildren used to take advantage of.
She said: “I can sign my name. That’s important.
“My grandchildren used to trick me into giving them extra money as I couldn’t count currency notes.
“Those days are gone.”
Salima’s story has other women in the area.
Twenty-five women now attend classes at the school, including two of her daughters-in-law.
Dr Sharma added: “Seeing Salima’s zeal, 25 women from the village, including two of her daughters-in-law, came forward to join classes.
“Now, we have started separate sessions for them.”
Salima plans to continue her education.
India’s literacy rate is approximately 74%.
Local education officer Lakshmi Pandey said:
“Her story reinforces the belief that the pursuit of knowledge is not limited by age.”