Italy’s oldest university graduate is 96 years old

Poverty and war got in the way of Giuseppe Paterno pursuing his passion for books and study.

Giuseppe Paterno has just graduated with a degree at 96 years old, and he says he does not know what all the fuss is about. 

Born in 1923 to a poor family in Sicily, Paterno was not able to go to university, despite his love of books and studying. 

Instead, he served in the navy during the second world war and then went on to be a railway worker. 

“I said: ‘It’s now or never,’ and therefore in 2017 I decided to enrol,” Paterno explains. “I understood that it was a little late to get a three-year degree, but I said to myself: ‘Let’s see if I can do it.’ I wasn’t sure when I took this decision because I didn’t know the environment, I didn’t know how teachers would behave in front of such an old person.”

He’s been using the same typewriter since 1984 and studies from books, not the internet. But when coronavirus hit and universities closed, he had to adapt to online classes and exams.

Although more than 70 years older than his classmates, he achieved the highest grade possible and received his degree with top honours.

Once coronavirus restrictions eased in Italy, he was able to celebrate with his family and had a small graduation ceremony.

“My project for the future is to devote myself to writing,” Paterno says. “I want to revisit all the texts I didn’t have a chance to further explore. This is my goal.”

This video was produced and edited by Al Jazeera NewsFeed’s Hassan Ghani.