Story and Biography of Kimani Nganga Maruge - Kenya compensation

Story Behind The First Grader movie

The movie, The First Grader, was a true story about a man's struggle to learn how to read and write. There were flashbacks in the movie about his times during the struggle for independence against British colonialism, but the rest of his life was not covered in the movie.

I was curious about the man, so I did some additional research to find out more about him. His full name was Joseph Stephen Kimani Nganga Maruge.

Maruge: World's Oldest Student

Kimani Nganga Maruge is believed to be the world's oldest student and is in the Guinness Book of World Records for this achievement. He entered primary school in Eldoret, in western Kenya at the age of 84, in January of 2004, when the government offered free public education. He wore the school boy's uniform. He was turned away many times from attending, but his persistence paid off, and the Headmaster, Jane Obinchu, finally relented. He attended school until he was too ill to do so. According to his family, he wanted to read the Bible.

In the movie, he became an assistant teacher so he could continue to study. According to the New York Times, he was moved to a special education classroom. Two of his grandchildren attended the same school.

Maruge was an Inspiration Man

He inspired many others with the campaign Learning is Freedom. He spoke at the United Nations Millennium Development Summit urging free primary education.

The Red Cross moved him into the old-age home in May 2008. He was baptized on Sunday May 24, 2009, at Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Kariobangi, with the name Stephen. While at the rest home, he continued his education at the Marura primary school.

In August 2009, five years after he entered primary school, he died at the age of 89 in the Kariobangi Cheshire Home for the Aged in Nairobi, the capital of Kenya. He had stomach cancer. He fathered fifteen children. He was survived by four children, 19 grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

Maruge's Military History

Maruge was a veteran of the Mau Mau movement, and was tortured by colonialists in Kenya's war for independence in 1952, and lost his foot as a result. He relied on a cane, and later, a wheelchair. In the movie, he received compensation for his suffering in the rebellion, but in April 7, 2011, Kenyans continued to seek compensation.

He continued to encounter difficulties that were not shown in the movie. In early 2008, there was bloody violence after the election. There were thousands of Kenyans who lost their homes during the violence, and Maruge was not spared. His home in the Rift Valley was burned down (or taken from him) and he too was forced to in a displacement camp. He continued to be persistent in his studies despite the living conditions, but eventually he did have to stop attending classes in January because of his illness. The primary schools end at grade eight, and he was two years away from completing when he stopped.

Life Lessons from Kimani Maruge

© 2011 Shasta Matova

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Comments: "Story and Biography of Kimani Nganga Maruge" 18 comments

Zeneida P. 6 months ago

Education is important for everybody, we all need strong will to pursue our dreams and perhaps change this world for better

calvin seep 17 months ago

That's passion

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Millionaire Tips 3 years ago from USA Author

It is amazing what you can do when you have the will to do it. Kimani Maruge is indeed a superhero.

Derdrick Motaung profile image

Derdrick Motaung 3 years ago from Mabopane, Gauteng, South Africa

amasing what will can make u do!

Marunge my grandfather my superhero.


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Millionaire Tips 3 years ago from USA Author

E. Harris, I believe that the reference is to President Barack Obama's father who is from Kenya.

E. Harris 3 years ago

The movie The First Grader was very inspirational, but I did not understand the reference to Michele Obama, or the quote at the end of the movie that someone from Kenya would some day be in the White House.

Beatriz machado 4 years ago

Sou professora , moro no Brasil, e fiquei emocionada com a personagem do filme, também fiquei curiosa para saber mais e fico agradecida pela sua pesquisa, obrigada.

Suba 4 years ago

It's really really an amazing story of a poor man who has the appitite for education. Hats off to him.

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Millionaire Tips 4 years ago from USA Author

That's true - making education free for kids is an important step throughout the world. Thanks for reading and commenting.

Edward 4 years ago

Just saw the moive on netflex and wow . It made me think that yes education does cost a lot in 3rd world countries but the kids are the future And all the nations in the world should make it free for kids that can't afford it . United nations needs too make this on their top list too get done now not later

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Millionaire Tips 4 years ago from USA Author

Indeed Hon Gozie Nwagba. He was quite an amazing man. Here is a man who had to fight to get an education, while today, I read about students who were told that a college education was not necessary. It looks like the fight must go on.

Hon Gozie Nwagba 4 years ago

Maruge is a role model and should be immortalized as commander of education. What an amazing man!

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Millionaire Tips 5 years ago from USA Author

Thank you for reading and commenting Petmwas. it is never too late to achieve your goal.

Petmwas 5 years ago

Its n't too late 2 achieve ur goal

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Millionaire Tips 5 years ago from USA Author

You're welcome. I didn't know about him before the movie. We take education so much for granted, and his story reminds us to be more grateful.

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stephaniedas 5 years ago from Miami, US

What an inspirational story. Thank you for sharing this, because I had never heard about this man. I am always amazed by people who take great steps forward despite adversity.

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Millionaire Tips 5 years ago from USA Author

Nell Rose, thank you for your comment. I was really impressed with him as well. Even though his main focus was the value of education, it is very inspiring to know that you are never to old to follow your dreams.

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Nell Rose 5 years ago from England

Hi, Wow! what an amazing man! Among all the hardships and wars, he was determined to learn, he makes me feel humble. That is a man to look up to, thanks for sharing, nell

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