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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