Chinese centenarian learns to read, write

Beijing, July 21 (IANS) A 100-year-old Chinese woman, who had never learnt to read or write, has now mastered over 100 Chinese characters, a media report said on Tuesday.

Zhao, a former vegetable vendor from Zhejiang province’s Hangzhou city, had never been to school and knew no characters except her own name before taking a literacy course, part of a government-funded programme, Xinhua news agency reported.

Most people who applied for Sanbao community literacy classes were aged between 70-80.

“We never expected [Zhao] would apply,” said Shen Yundi, one of the teachers.

“Considering her age, we arranged one-on-one tutoring for her,” Shen said.

“She spent two hours learning everyday. Sometimes, she would come to the classroom accompanied by a relative or sometimes a tutor would go to her home to teach her in private.”

Zhao’s son Luo Rongsheng said: “I pushed her to the classroom in her wheelchair. When we met friends on the way and they asked where we were going, she always replied proudly ‘I’m going to study’.”

Zhao passed the test at the end of the course and received a literacy certificate on July 13.

She has since been sticking to the habit of reading and writing.

“Everyday, she goes through her textbooks and reads aloud the characters and words,” Luo said.

Since Zhao has bad eyesight, her textbooks were specially made by her son and the community workers. Characters in the books are palm-sized.

According to Luo, his mother’s inability to read caused her a great deal of trouble when she was young.

She once received a big order from a university in the 1950s. Every day, staff from the university canteen would send her a list of the vegetables they needed. Zhao’s fellow villagers were just as incapable of reading the list as she was, so she had to walk miles to find someone in the neighbouring village to read it for her.

This is the fifth literacy course Sanbao community, with 300 illiterate residents, organised since 2014. Elderly people are paid from 300 yuan ($48) to 500 yuan ($80)each to attend the course.

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