Neighbours of 92-year-old Meenakshi Amma from Mulleriya village in the interiors of Kerala's Kasaragod district were surprised to see her distributing ladoos . Meenakshi Amma has passed her 4th standard or 4th grade equivalency exam conducted by The Kerala State Literacy Mission Authority (KSLMA).
Having secured 60% in the exam, a confident Meenakshi Amma has now decided to write her 7th grade equivalency exam. The exam that Meenakshi Amma wrote is one conducted under the ‚ÄėAthulyam‚Äô project which was introduced by the state government to achieve 100% literacy through primary and seconday education. Presently KSLMA conducts equivalency exams for 4th standard, 7th standard and 10th standard, for school drop-outs. KSLMA spokesperson Pradeep Kumar says that they try to get as many drop outs as possible to write the exams.
‚ÄúThrough census data we know who the school drop outs are, and our district officers approach them,‚ÄĚ Pradeep explains. A total of 2,02,862 people - meaning 98.52% - passed the exams this year. What makes the exam special is that most candidates are elderly citizens, who dropped out of schools at a young age. Those who pass the exam are eligible to apply for the 7th grade equivalency.
‚ÄúThe oldest candidate was 101 year old Ayisha Beevi who lives in Kollam district. She passed the exam with 70% marks. Thiruvananthapuram and Kottayam have secured 100% victory in the exams,‚ÄĚ says Kumar. ‚ÄúSeventy percent of the candidates are above 50 years old in all equivalency exams. In 4th standard exams, 80% of the candidates are above 50 years,‚ÄĚ Pradeep said.
For 70-year-old Sarojini from Ernakulam district, passing the exam with 80% marks, was all about a lost dream. ‚ÄúI was very good at my studies, but my father made me discontinue. Now at this age I am happily enjoying my studies,‚ÄĚ she says, her happiness evident.
‚ÄúThis time Malappuram district had 25000 candidates and we gave coaching to them in 30 different centers in the district. The highest number of candidates was in Thiruvananthapuram,‚ÄĚ said Manoj Veetuvelikunnel one of the coordinators of Athulyam from Malappuram district. KSLMA had launched equivalency exams in 2000 with the slogan "Education for all and Education forever."