12-01-2015 by Freddie del Curatolo
Exams never end, Eduardo De Filippo used to say. In Kenya it seems that even first grade lessons can accompany you through the winter of your existence, especially if you haven't had the chance to learn to read and write before. The case of old Kimani Maruge, who returned to the desks of a Kenyan school at the age of 84, went around the world and his story was also made into a film. Now it's the turn of a woman, Priscilla "Gogo" Sitienei, who enrolled in elementary school in the village of Ndalat, in the Rift Valley, at the tender age of ninety.
Her classmates call her "gogo," which means "grandmother" in the local idiom, and her best friend is 11 years old and says of her, "Gogo is a wonderful person, she tells us many stories from when she was our age." Gogo was interviewed by the BBC and revealed that she has been a midwife for 65 years but always wished she could read and write. "As a child I didn't have that chance," said the oldest pupil in Africa and probably the world, "I would like to be able to read the Bible and I would like to be an inspiration to other children to get an education. Too many grown children are not in school. Some already have children of their own. When I meet some of them on the street they tell me they are too old for school. And I say, "Well, I'm going, though. And so should you." Too many of them have lost their parents and are wandering the streets, hopeless. I want to encourage them to go to school."
Gogo doesn't just take classes, she also participates in optional classes in singing, dancing and acting and offers her knowledge of oral traditions, passed down from father to son and never put in writing. "I would like to be the first to do so," she explains, "just as I would like to jot down all the recipes with traditional herbs. I hope to be an example to the whole world to make people understand that education is man's greatest wealth. Thanks to culture, if you want, you can become what you want".
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