Aajibaichi Shaala is not your ordinary school in India in that one of the few requirements is that all students are at least 60 years old. Known as 'Grandmother School', Aajibaichi Shaala is situated in the village of Fangane in Maharashtra and teaches elderly women to read during afternoon classes in one room six days a week for two hours.

Aajibaichi Shaala
Drupada Pandurangkedar, 70, who studies at Aajibaichi Shaala stands outside her house in Fangane village, IndiaDanish Siddiqui/Reuters

Lessons are timed so the women can finish their chores, or their work in the fields, before attending class. The school uses teaching aids such as the alphabet painted on tiles which can be read by students with poor eyesight. Many of the aids are made by the students. Clad in pink saris, their school uniform, the women walk every afternoon along dusty village paths to their lessons.

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Sheetal Prakash More (R), a 30-year-old teacher, teaches at Aajibaichi Shaala in Fangane village, IndiaDanish Siddiqui/Reuters
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A woman holds a book as she attends a class at Aajibaichi Shaala in Fangane village, IndiaDanish Siddiqui/Reuters

"First I finish all my house work, then I go to school. It's good we have this in our village," 70-year-old Drupada Pandurangkedar told Reuters. Her eight-year-old granddaughter studies in the government primary school in Fangane.

India's literacy rate grew to 74% in the decade to 2011, according to the latest census, but female literacy continued to lag the rate for males by a wide margin. About 65% of women were found to be literate, compared with 82% of men, according to the 2011 report.

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Kantabai More (R), 65, helps her classmate Anusuya Kokedar (3rd L), 65, as she writes on a slate at Aajibaichi Shaala in Fangane village, IndiaDanish Siddiqui/Reuters
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Sheetal Prakash More, a 30-year-old teacher, helps Janabai Kedar, 74, as she writes on a slate at Aajibaichi Shaala in Fangane village, IndiaDanish Siddiqui/Reuters
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Women attend a class at Aajibaichi Shaala in Fangane village, IndiaDanish Siddiqui/Reuters
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Women leave after attending Aajibaichi Shaala in Fangane village, IndiaDanish Siddiqui/Reuters

Education experts and researchers have cited outdated attitudes toward women, including a preference for male children over females, and child marriages as the main reasons for the lower female literacy rate.

At Aajibaichi, afternoon classes in the one-room school are held six days a week for two hours. The lessons are timed so the women can finish their chores, or their work in the fields, before attending class.

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Kamal Keshavtupange, 60, who studies at Aajibaichi Shaala drinks tea inside her house in Fangane village, IndiaDanish Siddiqui/Reuters
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Vanita Dhau, 65, who studies at Aajibaichi Shaala works inside her house in Fangane village, IndiaDanish Siddiqui/Reuters
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Kamal Keshavtupange, 60, who studies at Aajibaichi Shaala lights fire as she cooks food on a stove inside her house in Fangane village, IndiaDanish Siddiqui/Reuters
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Uma Sitaramtupange, 65, who studies at Aajibaichi Shaala holds a baby outside her house in Fangane village, IndiaDanish Siddiqui/Reuters

"My knees hurt, so I can't sit on the floor for long. That's the only problem. But I still go every day," Keshavtupange told Reuters. Sheetal Prakash More, their 30-year-old teacher, said she would like to see women in other villages get the same access to education. "Every other teacher teaches children. Only I have the opportunity to teach elderly women," More said. "It's a great opportunity and I am very happy to teach them."

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Drupada Pandurangkedar, 70, who studies at Aajibaichi Shaala serves her granddaughter Namita Thackrey lunch inside their house in Fangane village, IndiaDanish Siddiqui/Reuters
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Indu Pawar, 61, who studies at Aajibaichi Shaala watches television inside her house in Fangane village, IndiaDanish Siddiqui/Reuters
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Drupada Pandurangkedar, 70, who studies at Aajibaichi Shaala gets ready for school inside her house in Fangane village, IndiaDanish Siddiqui/Reuters
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Vanita Dhau, 65, who studies at Aajibaichi Shaala stands inside her house in Fangane village, IndiaDanish Siddiqui/Reuters