Things That Matter

An 82-Year-Old Abuelo Finally Finished Elementary School And Learned How To Read

Leave it to an 82-year-old abuelo in the Mexican state of Oaxaca to show us all how to live our best lives. Despite being forced to choose work over school in order to help support his family, Timoteo Pacheco Rodríguez never gave up on his goal to go back to school – all the way back to elementary school – and get his diploma.

In Mexico, 3.6 million people do not know how to read and nearly half of those are adults over the age of 60. So Rodríguez is not alone. The country has so many stories similar to his and yet his story of hard work and determination is helping bring a bit of positivity into the lives of people all over the country.

Despite the pandemic, this 82-year-old man finished elementary school and learned how to read.

If there was ever an example of perseverance and determination, this man’s story is it. Despite a global pandemic, 82-year-old Timoteo Pacheco Rodríguez was awarded his diploma upon finishing his elementary school studies.

To make the celebration even more special, Rodríguez was granted his diploma on the International Day of the Elderly.

Rodríguez is originally from a small town in Oaxaca and didn’t have the access to regular studies as a child. He’s since spent his life in Oaxaca City and has dedicated his life to producing and growing coffee.

He explained that he found a good work/study balance, “I worked in the mornings and in the afternoons, did my homework, reviewed, studied the books they gave me and did my plans and my numbers,” he told Milenio.

He acknowledged that studying at his age is not easy, but with determination and hard work anything can be done. He also thanked his family for their support, adding that “They always supported me, in reviewing what I didn’t know,” especially one of his grandchildren who is also in school.

And Rodríguez isn’t done yet. He plans to continue his studies for as long as he can. If God gives me life, I will continue with my studies and finish high school,” he told Milenio.

Rodríguez is not alone – Mexico has made it a goal to help educate and improve literacy rates across the country.

Credit: Mexico Literacy Project

Mexico has made extreme progress in eradicating illiteracy from the country over the past 40 years. As recently as 1970, it was estimated that 26% of Mexicans couldn’t read or write. It was so serious that Mexico City’ Metro network was designed with illiteracy in mind.

However, as of the latest census (2005) it’s estimated that about 96.3% of Mexicans have the ability to read and write. However, there are still extreme variations in those numbers. For example, in the states of Chiapas, Oaxaca and Guerrero – three states it’s the highest rates of poverty – the literacy rate hovers around 77% to 78.4% for those over 15.

As a result, the government created the National Institute for Adult Education (INEA) in 1981 to help adults and young people over the age of 15 complete their studies. In 2019 more than 411,000 Mexicans obtained a diploma or learned how to read through INEA programs. Of those, 215,817 finished high school, and 96,645 graduated from primary school. Since its inception, more than 14 million people have benefited from INEA programs. 

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