News: The World's Oldest School Boy: 88, Kenyan and Refugee

Kimani Maruge is his name. You might never have heard of him.

This Kenyan peasant farmer and great-grand father was illiterate all his life, until at the age of 83, he jumped at a belated opportunity to educate himself when free primary schooling was introduced in Kenya, five years ago.

Maruge became something of a national celebrity and poster boy for free education campaigners worldwide. The U.N. even sponsored a trip for him to New York.

Now, at the age of 88, he is faced with a new challenge. In the recent post-election violence, members of his Kikuyu tribe were attacked by gangs and Maruge became one of the 300,000 refugees around the country are still scared to return home.

So every morning, "Mzee" as he is called - Swahili for 'elder' - gets out of his white Red Cross canvas tent at an agricultural showground housing 14,000 displaced people, to collect his books, don his uniform - shorts and all - and walks with a limp the 4 km (2.5 miles) to his beloved Kapkenduiywo Primary School.
At first, he went to a special school set up at the refugee camp, but he prefers his old school near his home.

"But I have not stopped studying. School is too important.", Maruge says, "It is hard. There is no one to help me walk. I go alone. But the urge to learn keeps me going."

In an interview with Reuters, he asks: "If you see people, tell them the kids here need help."

Which we do. Hat off to you, Mzee! (full)

Picture courtesy Reuters. Source: The Road Daily


EmmaB 03 July, 2008 14:25  

What a great story and what a wonderful man with such a "can do" attitude - puts a lot of people to shame really.

Emma Bowler

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