Thiruvananthapuram: The narrow lanes, lined by coconut palms have witnessed a silent revolution in Kerala. Women like Najeeba, in their 50s, who were never allowed to study as young girls, have defied the smirks of their grandchildren to pass their 4th grade equivalency exams.
Of 2.5 lakh candidates who took the exam, 70% were above 50, making Kerala the first state in India to accomplish total primary education.
Now, these women are discovering how their lives have been transformed.
"I can go by bus, read the bus boards and numbers... I can write in Malayalam, read newspaper, read story books and read English," said a beaming Najeeba.
"I go to the bank, do my work by myself like filling documents. A lot of changes have happened and my children are happy too," said 59-year-old Sitya Aneesa, the eldest in the group.
Over 2,000 trained instructors, like 27-year-old Fatima, a mother of two, have been the torchbearers, partnering with the Kerala State Literacy Mission Authority as volunteers. But teaching thousands of people across the state, ranging from the age of 15 to 104, was not an easy task.
"They didn't do their homework. They had families to look after. They would forget what was taught, and we would have to start all over again. It was tough, but it's very nice to see them read things by themselves," said Fathima S, an instructor who underwent a month-long government training for this purpose.
"We won't stop at this. We will make encourage people to clear their 7th and 10th equivalency exams too," said Education Minister PK Abdu Rabb. "It's a great accomplishment for Kerala and India."