Rome: An Italian woman who missed out on formal education because of the second world war has returned to the classroom to study for her school diploma – at the age of 90.
Annunziata Murgia is the oldest person ever in her evening class to attend lessons for the licenza media, or middle school diploma, an exam typically taken by children in lower secondary education at the age of 14. She does so at the centre close to her home in Dolianova, Sardinia.
“I like studying, I’ve always liked it,” she told Il Messaggero. “But when the war broke out, everything changed for me. I had to go and work, as my family struggled and I had to play my part. Once upon a time, only those who had money could study.”
Murgia said she learned to sew when she was a child and went on to become a seamstress. But she read lots of books, and so “studied alone, whenever I could”.
Her passions are history and music. “I’ve always loved history books, also because I experienced a good part of the history written about in books – I saw the consequences of the first world war and lived through the second one.”
Murgia’s youngest classmate is 16, a pupil who will re-sit the diploma as Murgia makes her first attempt in June. Passing the exam, which includes tests in Italian literacy and maths, is required to be able to progress to higher secondary education, which in Italy ends at 18.
Marina Pilia, a literature teacher at the school, described Murgia as a very passionate and engaged pupil.
“Although she has some difficulties hearing, and wasn’t in the best form yesterday due to a fall, she actively participates in the classes, especially history,” said Pilia.
The school mainly caters for adult learning, and those aged 16-20 needing to retake school exams. The average age of students in Murgia’s class is 40-plus, some of whom are also preparing for the middle school diploma.
“Often they are women who recoup their education after having children, or people who never obtained the diploma and need it for work, as it’s the minimum education requirement,” said Pilia.
The last person in Murgia’s age group to sit for the exam at the school was an 87-year-old woman, in 2016. Murgia said her teachers are “fantastic” and classmates are “like my grandchildren”.
“Some accompany me home in the evening, when it’s dark,” she added. And she is ready for the exam. “I will give it my all.”