toronto grandma

Newly-graduated Toronto grandma has words of advice for young people in school

A Toronto grandma who just broke records with her education has some words of advice for young people attending school.

Varatha Shanmuganathan just became the oldest person to recieve a master's degree from York University, as well as one of the oldest women to obtain a graduate degree from a Canadian university. 

The 87-year-old wants young people to know that there are no barriers when it comes to learning. Especially in this day and age, where you can find online resources to teach yourself on just about any topic under the sun. 

"Life long learning is always there, if you have time and the interest, I say go for it, whether young or old," said Shanmuganathan. 

Shanmuganathan inspired her young peers when she got a taste of the campus life while attending York in 2019. 

The Toronto grandma says she was sitting amongst people as young as her grandchildren while going to lectures, studying in the library, and mingling with other students in her classes. 

Shanmuganathan learned a lot from hanging around her young peers, saying how some of them told her they wanted her to be their grandma. 

Shanmuganathan's life story is a testament to her perserverance in completing her degree this year, an accomplishment that could inspire someone of any age. 

Originally from Sri Lanka, Shanmuganathan has lived in four different continents: Asia, Africa, Europe, and North America. 

Throughout her journey, she attended post-secondary in India, then went on to work as a teacher in Ethiopia, Sierra Leone, Nigeria and the United Kingdom alongside her husband. 

When she immigrated to Canada in 2004, she had a yearning for more knowledge, and when she heard about York's offer to waive tuition fees for seniors, she knew it was time to finally complete her education. 

On Tuesday, Shanmuganathan graduated with master's degree in political science. Now, she plans to write a book on post-war in Sri Lanka and prospects of peace, topics she studied vigorously while in school. 

While she works on her book, Shanmuganathan also aspires to speak to young people about ideas on life long learning, to encourage them to not be afraid to explore more, no matter what stage of life you're in. 

Lead photo by

York University 


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