The School for Grandmothers: Aajibaichi Shala

A powerful act of determination, community, and liberation.

Courtesy: Instagram

Youth favours those who continue to learn. And the grandmothers of a village in Thane, Maharashtra, are living by this credo every day of their lives. Dedicated to the aajis or grandmothers of the village, the Aajibaichi Shala is the first-ever school for non-literate grandmothers who want to fulfil what they could never receive as children…an education.

All in their 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s, these determined students from the remote Phangane village arrive dressed in pink saris as their uniform, school bags in tow. How this school started is just as special—the Aajibaichi Shala began in 2016, from a local farmer’s house, after a Zila Parishad teacher, Yogendra Bangar, overheard a senior woman say she wished she could read the holy passages while praying.

The students, in their 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s attend school in a pink sari, school bags in tow.
Image: Courtesy SLSV.

What began as a small batch grew over time…the best form of peer pressure, one could say. Aajibaichi Shala remains open for two hours a day, from 2pm to 4pm, and the day begins with a 10-minute assembly where students recite the Sharada Vandana prayer to the goddess of knowledge, Saraswati. Following this, classes begin, which include learning nursery rhymes, the alphabet, math tables, and painting.

The Aajibaichi Shala started after a local Zila Parishad teacher overheard a senior woman lament that she couldn't read holy scriptures because she wasn't educated. Image: Courtesy
Classes even include playtime, which serves as a wonderful way for the women to relive their childhood.
Image: Courtesy

Along with this, each student plants a sapling to take care of, a literal metaphor for looking after themselves and watching themselves blossom.

Despite suffering from hearing problems, weak eyesight, joint issues, and other ailments, the aajis are determined to learn… And the strides they have made! Now, these grandmothers actively engage in village discussions, read documents themselves, and most importantly, sign their name on paperwork, instead of using thumbprints.

At the school, the aajis learn the alphabet, nursery rhymes, math tables, and painting. Image: Courtesy AFP.

From excelling in oral traditions to learning the letter, these wonderful grandmothers have proved have nothing can come in the way of a woman who has decided to make the most of her life.

The grandmothers now participate in village discussions and sign their own documents.
Image: Courtesy Aajibaichi Shala.