Accessibility links

88-Year-Old Man is Oldest Primary School Student in Kenya

Kimani Ng'ang'a Maruge, 88, is the oldest man in Kenya to attend primary school. At the time of his enrollment four years ago, the Guinness Book of World Records listed him as being the oldest person in the world to start primary school. VOA followed him four years ago, when he first enrolled in elementary school. Reporter Cathy Majtenyi checked back with him recently, and has filed this report.

At Marura Primary School in Nairobi, teacher Julia Wanyoike explains to her sixth grade class the finer points of math. One student is particularly interested.

He dreams of becoming a doctor one day. But for the moment, Kimani Ng'ang'a Maruge is trying to master the art of drawing right angles.

Maruge is 88 years old. He enrolled in school in 2004 following the government's decision to offer universal and free primary school education.

"I was shown by God to go to school, and He encouraged me to study," he explained. "That is why I am back in school."

Maruge is a great-grandfather. He says his main reason for enrolling in primary school was to learn how to read the Bible.

"The preachers mislead people. That is why I wanted to learn how to read the Bible," Maruge said. "I wanted to learn to read the Bible because I wanted to see where it can take me, because I will live to be 300 years old."

Maruge began his education in western Kenya, in the town of Eldoret.

One year into school, he went to New York City to speak to a United Nations session on the importance of free primary education.

Earlier this year, his studies in Eldoret were interrupted by the post-election violence that rocked the country.

Officials at Cheshire Services Kenya, an association that helps the elderly disabled, then offered Maruge a place in their home in the Nairobi slum of Kariobangi. They said they would help him finish his studies at a nearby primary school.

Maruge is in his element at school. He says his fellow students are like his children.

During lunch hour, he regales his peers with stories from when he was a fighter in the Mau Mau independence movement of the 1950s.

Math teacher Julia Wanyoike says Maruge is a good student, but he needs extra help in reading. She says he more than makes up for it in other ways.

"He is an inspiration," Wanyoike said. "I look at myself - I feel I should not be comfortable with my education, how far I have gone. I need even to learn more so that I can advance."

School is out for the day. After hours of learning, Maruge heads home to do his homework and dream about his future.