Mexican teacher retires at 102

Mexico City: At 102 years of age, a bad hip and respiratory problems might be considered par for the course. But for Albina Cruces, the repercussions of her ailments have been far-reaching, finally bringing to an end her 87 years as a schoolteacher.

The oldest school teacher in Mexico, and perhaps the world, has taken voluntary retirement. Ms. Cruces began what she sees as her life's mission in state education shortly after the Mexican Revolution ended in 1917. She taught throughout the seven-decade rule of the Institutional Revolutionary Party and ends her career as Mexico's first democratically elected government since that time draws to a close. She claims to have easily adapted to each new era, never considering retirement even when union representatives suggested it was time.

``I would just say no,'' said Ms. Cruces, whose voice is soft, her tone firm and her finger ever ready to wag with gentle but inflexible conviction. ``The children need me and I need the children.''

An Education Ministry spokesman confirmed both Ms. Cruces' age and the absence of forced retirement rules although, he added, few teachers work for more than 30 years. But this winter became enough for the lucid, and remarkably unwrinkled, centenarian when her ailments began to limit her ability to move around the Mexico City primary school she has headed since 1949.

Born in a silver and gold mining town in central Mexico in 1903, Ms Cruces was the youngest of nine siblings in a relatively prosperous family that lost everything in the revolution in 1910.

- Guardian Newspapers Limited 2005

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