I recently had the opportunity to watch an outstanding movie, The First Grader (2010). The movie is set in Kenya 2003/2004 and centers around an 84 year old
ex Mau Mau veteran freedom fighter named Kimani Ng’ang’a Maruge and his aspiration and ambition to learn to read, write and become educated.
The above embedded photograph is that of the real Kimani Ng’ang’a Maruge and his classmates (i.e., not a picture from the movie or of the actor portraying Maruge).
In the year 2003, the Kenyan government passed a new law establishing that the government would provide free education for all primary school students. In Kenya, primary school includes eight grades or levels.
It should be noted here (especially for the keyboard-warriors and skeptics) that, much like Barack Obama Sr., Kimani Ng’ang’a Maruge does not know when he was born. All that is known is that he was born around 1920. He had no official papers to tell him the exact date of his birth.
Maruge was the oldest son of seven children. As a child when he was old enough to go to school he could not because he had to work on the farm with his father.
At some point in the 1950s Maruge joined the Mau Mau rebels and became a freedom fighter.
Maruge spent years fighting the British and also farming. He also married and raised twelve (12) children. He continued farming to support his family and did not have the time, nor the money, to pay for an official education for himself as and adult.
After the new law in Kenya was passed in 2003 promising to provide free education “for all primary students” Maruge decided to enroll in first grade (with young children). He wanted to learn to read and write. He wanted to be able to make educated decisions, conducts business and read letters from family, friends and the government. He also stated that the most important reason for wanting to learn to read was so to read the Bible. Maruge was a Christian.
Maruge died from stomach cancer on the 14th day of August, 2009. He was approximately 89/90 years old.
In the movie, The First Grader, Maruge is portrayed by actor Oliver Litondo. Maruge’s teacher, Jane Obinchu, is portrayed by the exceptionally gorgeous and incredibly talented Naomie Melanie Harris. I’ve seen many of her other movies and I particularly enjoyed her performance is Blood and Oil (2010). It should also be noted here that there is another movie, a documentary released in 2004, titled, “The First Grader: The True Story of Kimani N’gan’ga Maruge“. I myself have not seen the 2004 documentary.
Embedded below is a trailer of The First Grader (2010) followed by an embedded video interview with actress Naomi Harris:
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