Never Too Old: 78-Year-Old Starts First Grade in Bulgaria

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Apostol Stoyanov will hand in homework, take tests, and answer questions in class, just like the rest of the students. No matter that he’s old enough to be his classmates’ grandfather.

As students across the world head back to school, the 6-year-olds in one Bulgarian school will notice a student who doesn’t quite fit in. That’s because Stoyanov, 78, will be joining them in the classroom – as a new student.

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Stoyanov has decided to get an education, telling state news agency BTA that he never had the opportunity when he was young, due to the distance and cost of education. He notes that he never learned to read or write, but “his biggest dream is to be literate.” The lifelong laborer, who lives alone, explains he’s ready for a life in the classroom.

Stoyanov is enrolled alongside 430 other first graders in Gabrovo, studying primarily on his own but attending school to take quizzes and submit classwork. His biggest fear – and he’s surely not alone here – is math, but plans to seek extra help with that subject.

He’s the real-life Billy Madison – except he’s actually quite eager to learn.

Nick Carbone is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @nickcarbone. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

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