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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

Comments: "Story and Biography of Kimani Nganga Maruge"

Sandra Kilgore on November 11, 2019:

I have seen this movie many times and as a matter of fact, I watched it twice today. I am a Deacon in my church and I shared Mr. Maruga's story with the children during alta call.

Zeneida P. on August 08, 2016:

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

calvin seep on September 20, 2015:

That's passion

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Shasta Matova (author) from USA on February 10, 2014:

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

Derdrick Motaung from Mabopane, Gauteng, South Africa on February 08, 2014:

amasing what will can make u do!

Marunge my grandfather my superhero.


Shasta Matova (author) from USA on February 08, 2014:

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

E. Harris on January 22, 2014:

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 on December 23, 2012:

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 on September 28, 2012:

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

Shasta Matova (author) from USA on June 16, 2012:

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

Edward on June 16, 2012:

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

Shasta Matova (author) from USA on May 20, 2012:

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 on May 20, 2012:

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

Shasta Matova (author) from USA on February 16, 2012:

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

Petmwas on February 16, 2012:

Its n't too late 2 achieve ur goal

Shasta Matova (author) from USA on October 24, 2011:

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.

Stephanie Das from Miami, US on October 24, 2011:

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.

Shasta Matova (author) from USA on October 19, 2011:

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.

Nell Rose from England on October 18, 2011:

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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