Clad in her pink uniform with a backpack on her shoulders, Kanta More walks down to her school every morning reciting the nursery rhyme she was taught the previous day.
Along with 29 of her classmates, she begins her day at school with a prayer and goes on to recite the alphabets in Marathi swaying back and forth, as she etches them out on her black slate with a piece of chalk.
It could be an everyday scene in any elementary school, but with one difference: The students are all aged between 60 and 90 years of age.
Kanta and her friends study at the Ajibainchi Shala, a grandmothers’ school in Fangane village here, where they receive elementary education, including fundamental mathematics, alphabets and their correct pronunciations as well as nursery rhymes.
An initiative to turn the hour glass by 45-year-old Yogendra Bangar, the school aims at educating the elderly women in the village, where farming is the dominant profession.
Bangar, a teacher at the Fangane Zila Parishad Primary school, collaborated with the Motiram Charitable Trust, which has provided a blackboard for the classroom, besides helping the women with all the necessary logistics including a pink sari uniform, a school bag, a slate and chalk pencils. Initially hesitant about attending school, Kanta, who can now read and write in Marathi, says being educated makes her feel independent.
“Initially, I was shy and hesitant, but when I came to know that women of my age and above were joining the Shala, I went ahead with the decision. Now I can read and write in my language.
“I have understood the importance of education. It gives you self-esteem. Earlier, I had to put my thumb impression on bank documents, but now I can sign them myself. I don’t need anyone else’s help,” she says.