The Oldest First Grader



Britta Kasholm-Tengve

Robin Basselin and Ryan Geertsma tell the story of Kimani Maruge. He started school when he was 84 years old!

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Transcript


Voice 1 

Welcome to Spotlight. I’m Robin Basselin.

Voice 2 

And I’m Ryan Geerstma. Spotlight uses a special English method of broadcasting. It is easier for people to understand, no matter where in the world they live.

Voice 1 

In the mountains of Kenya, an old man stands at a gate. His skin is aged and his hair is white. He stands bent over his walking stick. He is wearing blue school clothes. And he has a blanket over his shoulders. This man waits outside the Kapkenduiywa Primary school near Eldoret, Kenya. This is not the first time the man has come to the school. He has come many times over the last few months.

Voice 2 

Today, he watches the children sing in the school yard. He waits at the gate for the head teacher. He asks her the same question as he always does. He asks if he can attend the school. In the past, the head teacher told him no. She told him that this school is for children. However, this time is different. This time she says yes. Today, 84-year-old Kimani Maruge will start his first day of school.

Voice 1 

This story is from the recent film “The First Grader.” The film is based on the real life story of Kimani Ng'ang'a Maruge. Today’s Spotlight is on Kimani Maruge and his desire to become educated.

Voice 2 

In 2003, the Kenyan government passed a new law. This law established that the government would provide free education for all primary school students. In Kenya, primary school includes eight grades, or levels. Usually, primary students start Grade One when they are six or seven years old. However, when Kenya began free education, many older children started school for the first time. New students filled schools all over the country. In many Grade One classrooms, children had to share seats or even sit on the floor.

Voice 1 

Schools were prepared for the thousands of new students. However, no one was prepared for a student like Kimani Maruge. At 84, he set a new record in the Guinness Book of World Records. He became the oldest person in the world to ever start primary school.

Voice 2 

When Maruge decided he wanted to go to school, nothing could stop him.  He told the Mirror,

Voice 3 

“At first, the head teacher said no. I thought it must be because I did not have the official school clothes. So, I saved my money and bought clothes.”

Voice 1 

However, Maruge had to visit the school four more times before the head teacher let him stay.  Head teacher, Jane Obinchu told the Mirror,

Voice 4 

“At first, we thought this was insane. But I knew we would have to admit a man who was so serious about learning... I told the teachers to prepare for the oldest school boy ever.”

Voice 2 

Many people wonder why Maruge wanted to start school at such an old age. The reason is simple - he was not able to attend school when he was younger.

Voice 1 

Maruge was born around 1920. He had no official papers to tell him the exact date of his birth. He was the oldest son of seven children. When he was old enough to attend school he could not go. Instead, he helped his father work on their farm. He sacrificed his education so that his younger brothers and sisters could go to school.

Voice 2 

In the 1950s, Maruge joined the Mau Mau rebels. This group of Kenyans were mainly from the Kikuyu tribe. Together, they fought against the British people that occupied Kenya. Kenyans did not gain their independence from this rebellion. But many people believe this rebellion began a process. This process led to Kenyan independence in 1963.

Voice 1 

After years of farming and fighting, Maruge then had a wife and children of his own. He needed to continue farming to support his family. Many years passed. Maruge raised 12 children. He never had the time or money to spend on his own education.

Voice 2 

However, in 2003, that all changed. The government had promised to provide free education for all. So, Maruge decided it was his time to go to school.

Voice 1 

Maruge wanted to learn to read and write for many reasons. He wanted to be able to read letters from friends, family and the government. He also wanted to be able to read official business papers. He wanted to be able to make more educated decisions. He told the Mirror,

Voice 3 

“I have suffered so many problems from being uneducated. People used to cheat me when I bought goods.”

Voice 2 

However, letters and business were not the most important reasons Maruge wanted to go to school. For Maruge, religion was the most important reason. Maruge was a Christian. He had attended church all of his life.  However, he had to depend on religious leaders and his children to learn about the Christian Bible. He told news writer Kate Snow,

Voice 3 

“All my life I have wanted to read the Bible.”

Voice 1 

When Maruge started school, he attended with three of his children’s children. They were all in higher grades than Maruge. However, with much hard work, Maruge learned quickly. One of Maruge’s teachers told the Mirror,

Voice 5 

“He is so intelligent. When he came to school, he could not write his name. But now, he reads the newspapers. We are learning from him.”

Voice 2

Many people agreed with Maruge’s teacher. Maruge was a student, but he also had much to teach. In 2005, the United Nations invited Kimani Maruge to come to New York City. They wanted him to speak about the importance of free education. Maruge accepted the invitation. And in his speech he said,

Voice 3 

“I want all children in the world to be educated. That is what I really hope to see.”

Voice 1 

Even after great success, there were still barriers to Maruge’s education. In 2007, riots began in Kenya. Two major tribes were fighting over land and government rule. Maruge had to move to a refugee camp where it was safe. At the time, he was 88 years old. The camp was more than three kilometers from his school. However, the long walk did not stop him from attending school. He told the news organization Reuters,

Voice 3 

“It is hard. There is no one to help me walk. I go to the school alone. But the urge to learn keeps me going.”

Voice 2 

Kimani Maruge continued to go to school until he became sick in 2008. And on August 14th, 2009 Maruge died from stomach cancer. He was 90 years old.

Voice 1 

Although Maruge is now dead, his story lives on. The film, The First Grader will continue to spread his story. And his message is simple. As Maruge once told the Mirror,

Voice 3 

"A person is never too old to learn."

Voice 2 

The writer of this program was Robin Basselin. The producer was Mark Drenth. The voices you heard were from the United States and the United Kingdom. All quotes were adapted and voiced by Spotlight. You can listen to and read this program again on the internet at www.radioenglish.net. This program is called “The Oldest First Grader.”

Voice 1 

We hope you can join us again for the next Spotlight program. Goodbye.

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Question:

Do you like learning? Will you continue to learn new things as you grow older?

Comments


Julie Ppark's avatar
Julie Ppark
said on November 23, 2011

‘A person is never too old to learn.’
What a terrific saying! My mom is still learning many things such as playing the piano, playing the cello and speaking in English. I think she is really cool and I’d like to model myself after her. ^^

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kenhieuloilam
said on November 24, 2011

We want children to become good ones. We want them to get good characters. We want children to be educated. We want them to become good ones in community. We want them to be good citizens. We want our communities to get better. We want our communities to be good for everyone. We want good things.

humble71's avatar
humble71
said on November 28, 2011

It’s a great example for everyone of us , without comfortable conditions to study he took the decision to learn with enthusiasm.. and with kids ..it’s hard but he did it.  I didn’t end the university in business management because I didn’t like that career…and when I was 27 years old I wanted to begin to study a new career that I like but members of my family said to me that is late to begin a new career and office workers in the university too..I was too old and students were younger than me..the educational system is only for young people….Now I’m studying at a university with distance method. I’m 40 years old and I continue receiving criticism about why I’m studying now and I say.. because I deserve it and it’s my life.
  Thanks Marugee..  he’s an heroe and an example for all the poor people and for everyone that think is very late to begin the studies that always they loved and don’t live with frustration inside their souls.

Thanks my friends for sharing and producing this program about a great person ..

AlexisXavier's avatar
AlexisXavier
said on August 17, 2012

“A person is never too old to learn.”

In my country Ecuador there is a free literacy program aimed at people who did not have the opportunity to study in its infancy and that includes the elderly

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Doi hai linh
said on August 17, 2012

i think he is absolutely amazing. Noone can do the same things as him. He has to try much to do everything best. I like his slogan “A person is never too old to learn”. We are learning from him.

humble71's avatar
humble71
said on August 22, 2012

I watched the trailer about Kimane Maruge , it’s hard to listen how a person says to him ” go home and rest in peace”. And other woman said in a radio station “It’s crazy”  but he continued and don’t gave up , he kept going. He’s a great example for all people all over the world , he was a poor elder man but he could travel to New York invited by The United Nations and he pronounced his few powerful words in front of representatives of all over countries of the world ” I want all the children in the world to be educated. That’s I what really hope to see”
Thanks Spotlight friends to reach so important information about real life stories.

Good bye,
A.Lenin
Quito, Ecuador

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Dela
said on September 09, 2013

Maruge experienced very hard life at all points. His lifetime was filled with working, fighting, sacrifice, poverty and mainly the continual, intense desire to become educated someday. And he reached this goal. He was a wise, admirable man, his life story really will encourage the other people to be interested in education, no matter as they are old. Maruge’s message is instructive, clear and simple!
Thanks for a great topic!

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Dela
said on September 09, 2013

I want to add to my previous comment. I was strong moved I read that as Maruge’s walk to school was hard in his age, no one helped him but he held on though! That’s astonishing!
Greetings

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georgino
said on September 13, 2013

Maruge is an example of overcoming. I think tha all depend of a person when wants to follow studying continue and that is all.
Many people criticise but they donĀ“t know the needs of a person the global managment, the tecnology advance. So,  we have to learn litle by little.
The opportunities must be for all and that the governments must safeguard.

Thks

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thanhdung07121985@gmail.com
said on September 15, 2013

I admire Maruge’s willing and energy.Learning is never too late for us.We can learn any time.any age.Nothing can restrain our determination.

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Honneur
said on April 13, 2020

Maruge’s story is exciting. I have been teaching all my life and have had students of the most different ages, social status and grades and grades.
I remember the Mau Mau rebels and their actions in Kennya. I was a child, but I read the newspapers every day.
When Mau Mau wanted to kill a white family of farmers, they placed a hanged cat at the farm gate and then invaded the farm and killed everyone with a big ax. They were terrorists and I don’t like terrorists at all ... There is no way to like someone who kills innocents who cannot defend themselves.