Karthyayani Amma, a celebrity elderly learner and recipient of the Union government’s Nari Shakti Puraskar, died at her house at Muttom, near Cheppad, in Alappuzha, on Tuesday night (October 10, 2023). She was 101.
Karthyayani shot to fame in 2018 when she became the oldest learner at the age of 96 to clear the Aksharalaksham literacy examination of the Kerala State Literacy Mission Authority (KSLMA). She scored 98 marks out of 100, bagging the first rank in the exam attended by 40,363 candidates.
The examinees were tested on reading, writing, and Mathematics. She scored 38 out of 40 in writing, and full marks in reading and mathematics. She received a certificate for her excellent show from Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan. The then Education Minister C. Raveendranath visited her and gifted her a laptop. She later cleared the fourth equivalency exam conducted by the KSLMA. Karthyayani had never gone to school and used to work as a domestic help and cleaning staff. The nonagenarian had got inspiration from her daughter Amminiamma. A school dropout, Amminiamma, had cleared the tenth standard equivalent examination after attending continuing education classes.
Karthyayani was later selected as the Commonwealth of Learning Goodwill Ambassador. In March 2020, she received Nari Shakti Puraskar from President Ram Nath Kovind on International Women’s Day. Kerala presented a tableau of “Nari Shakti and Folk Traditions of Women Empowerment” featuring Karthyayani at the Republic Day parade earlier this year.
She suffered a stroke last year and had been bedridden since then.
Her funeral will be held on her house premises on Thursday at 11 a.m. with State honours.
The Chief Minister condoled her death. Calling her “the pride of Kerala”, Mr. Vijayan said that she had inspired several women. “Deeply saddened by the passing of Karthyayani Amma, who made history by becoming the oldest learner under the State Literacy Mission. She served as an inspiring role model for many, showing unwavering determination to pursue education despite challenges. Her demise is a significant loss to our literacy movement, which helped shape modern Kerala. Heartfelt condolences,” Mr. Vijayan wrote on Twitter.