A school in Maharashtra’s village is the only school for elderly women in India where they attend the classes in pink sarees every day. 'Aajibaichi Shala', the school for elderly women in the Phangane village of the Thane district, is run from two rooms in a farmer’s house.
The school was started in 2016 on International Women’s Day with the help of an activist-teacher Yogendra Bangar and Motiram Dalal Charitable Trust. Bangar, with the help of the trust, procured necessary items like the blackboard, uniform, school bags, slates and chalks.
The school remains open only for two hours every day, from 2 pm to 4 pm, which starts with prayer assembly and attendance. It also takes tests like any other schools in the country and holds extra-curriculum activities like gardening, and painting. Breaking stereotypes of age and gender, the elderly women, most of them aged 60 to 90 years, carry slates and etch alphabets on it with white chalk. They receive elementary education at the school including basic maths and also recite nursery rhymes.
While the literacy rate in India has been on a rise over the years with several educational reforms, women in rural areas are still way behind the national average. According to official data, 79 per cent of India's rural men are literate but only 59 per cent women are literate. In villages, where girls drop out of schools frequently due to various reason, education to elderly women, one of the most neglected groups vis-a-vis literacy, came as breathe of fresh air.
Social media applauded the wonderful initiative and urged to open similar schools across the country. “Great initiative & wonderful concept! It'd be helpful to compare life expectancy, general wellbeing between attendants & non-attendants (sic),” wrote a Twitter user. “Better to keep age limit of 40 years.. we know women's life is short in remote areas due to lack of ontime treatment (sic),” commented another user.