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Life

Learning is old hat at India's 'school for grannies'

Maharashtra initiative combats widespread illiteracy among elderly women

One of the students at Aajibaichi Shala, a school in the western Indian village of Phangane where women aged 60 to 94 come to learn reading, writing, arithmetic and other skills. (All photos courtesy of Aajibaichi Shala)

NEW DELHI -- Nestled in the remote village of Phangane in India's western state of Maharashtra, Aajibaichi Shala is a unique institution, perhaps the only one of its kind in the world. For this is a "school for grannies" where women aged 60 to 94 come to learn reading, writing, arithmetic and other skills.

Set up under a grove of trees inside a colorful hut festooned with streamers and flowers, the school opens for two hours a day, from 2 p.m. until 4 p.m. As soon as the clock strikes 1:30 p.m., 30 grannies (called aajis in the local Marathi language) start trooping into the school, neatly attired in uniforms of bright pink sarees, with satchels slung on their shoulders.

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