Italian nonno graduates from middle school at 98

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Italian nonno graduates from middle school at 98
It's never too late to learn. File photo: Damien Meyer/AFP

Salvatore 'Felicino' Piredda passed his middle school exams with top marks this week – at the age of 98.


The great-grandfather got special permission to return to school last year to realize a long-held dream of earning his middle school certificate. 

After a year of lessons three days a week, he took his final exams alongside his 13-year-old classmates earlier this week – and achieved a maximum 10/10, according to La Repubblica.

"It's been an unforgettable year," he told La Nuova Sardegna.

Born in the small town of Pula, Sardinia, in 1921, Piredda dropped out of school aged 13 to work in the island's mines. He went on to become a mechanic on the mining machinery, fought in World War Two and concluded his working days in a textile factory. 

But he always regretted missing out on an education.

"My story is my payback on my father, who 90 years ago told me: 'School won't get you anywhere, stay here and work,'" Piredda told L'Unione Sarda when he enrolled in middle school last year. "That's not a reproach, in those days that was the kind of sacrifice you had to make to put food on the table."


While Nonno Felicino originally dreamed of going on to high school and even university to obtain his mechanic's qualification, his declining eyesight means his studies will probably end with middle school, he said this week.

But that doesn't mean he's finished learning. "I'm a grown-up schoolboy and until the day the good Lord leaves me, I'll have a lot to learn," he told L'Unione Sarda.

Piredda wasn't the only "grown-up schoolboy" sitting exams this week: in Bari, Puglia, 83-year-old Domenico Di Bartolomeo passed his middle school tests in maths, science, technology, French and Italian.

"I like the idea that [my grandchildren] are proud of me and my progress," he told La Repubblica.

While Nonno Domenico attended a school for adult learners, Felicino was studying alongside children young enough to be his great-grandkids.

They're "fantastic", he told L'Unione Sarda last November. "My sight makes things tricky, but they all make an effort to help me... The more I'm with them, the more I feel like a whippersnapper."


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