Ajibaichi shala or granny's school located in Fangane village at Murbad in Thane district and Sheetal Moore (26) is the sole teacher at the school who proudly says “All my 29 students can sign now”.
One of the main objectives of the school is to ensure that all the students of the school, women above 60 years, learn to sign as this will help in putting an end to thumb impression on official documents.
Last year, on March 8, the school was started on International Women's day by Professor Yogendra Bangar.
While the school started with the enrollment of 30 students, one of the granny students passed away last year.
The unusual nature and students of the school demands unusual teaching methods. Sheetal left her education after she failed class 10 but will attempt her SSC exam again in the coming next year.
She says, “One of the things that I have to do is ensure I do not praise any student individually”.
Explaining the reason behind that she says "If I praise one aaji (granny), the other aajis feel bad and complain that if I would focus on them, even they would perform as well. Over a period of time, I would either praise the entire class at once, or not praise anyone. It has worked so far. I have learnt many aspects of teaching on the go".
What further complicate the things is that one of Sheetal's students is Kantabai More, who is her mother-in-law. “Sometimes I have to be strict with the aajis if they are not focusing. It would feel very odd to pull up my mother-in-law in the class,” Sheetal says, bursting out laughing before adding, “But you cannot get angry at them. They feel really upset.”
Deteriorating senses of her students is another challenge which Sheetal has to face. "Some of them are hard of hearing so I go near them and explain things. Same is the case with some of the aajis who suffer from poor eyesight. The oldest student we have is a 92-year-old aaji. Her hand shivers when she tries to write something on a slate. In that case, I hold her hand while she writes. So far we are focusing on barakhadi (alphabets) and numbers" she says.
The uniform at the school is pink sari. “Some of them have lost their husbands hence they were not willing to wear green saris we had earlier decided on. Hence, we changed the uniform to pink sari,” Sheetal explains.