Kimani N’gang’a Maruge made became the world’s oldest student in 2003. Great grandfather Kimani was a farmer in Western Kenya who inadvertently led the way in the fight for universal free education in that country.
Kimani was given a belated chance to go to school in 2003 after Kenya abolished primary school fees. In 2005, he travelled to the United Nations in New York with the Global Campaign for Education to urge world leaders to fulfill their promises of free education for all. He delivered the ‘Send My Friend to School’ messages from over 5 million campaigners, and spoke to officials about the importance of education.
Kimani said he wanted to go to school so that he could read the Bible for himself, and was two years away from completing primary school when he died. He inspired learners and campaigners for education around the world with determination and his words on education, “Liberty is Learning”.
In 2005 Maruge was elected head boy of his school. Maruge’s property was stolen during the 2007-2008 post-election violence, and he nearly left school.
Early in 2008 he lived in a refugee camp four kilometers from his school, but still attended classes every day. In June 2008 he relocated to the capital Nairobi.
In June, 2008, Maruge was forced to withdraw from school and relocate to a retirement home for senior citizens enrolling a short time later at the Marura primary school, in the Kariobangi area of Nairobi.
On Sunday May 24, 2009 Maruge was baptised at Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Kariobangi and took a Christian name, Stephen.
Maruge was a widower, and a great-grandfather (two of his 30 grandchildren attend the same school). He was a combatant in the Mau Mau Uprising against the British colonizers in the 1950s.
He died on the 15th August, aged 90. A film based on his life called ‘The First Grader’ is due for release in 2010.
– From ‘The Weekly World’ (www.weeklyworldonline.com)