The First Grader (Kimani Ng’ang’a Maruge the Mau Mau freedom fighter).

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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About Lucas Daniel Smith

"The counts of the indictment are luxury, bad manners, contempt for authority, disrespect to elders, and a love for chatter in place of exercise...Children began to be the tyrants, not the slaves, of their households. They no longer rose from their seats when an elder entered the room; they contradicted their parents, chattered before company, gobbled up the dainties at table, and committed various offences against Hellenic tastes, such as crossing their legs. They tyrannised over the paidagogoi and schoolmasters." - Kenneth John Freeman (from his Cambridge dissertation published in 1907)
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2 Responses to The First Grader (Kimani Ng’ang’a Maruge the Mau Mau freedom fighter).

  1. Bruce says:


    MOVIE: ‘The First Grader’

    Netflix available on both DVD and Instant Streaming formats

    Video: Capital Talk – Jane Obinchu

    Video: World’s Oldest Pupil Passes On

  2. Bruce says:

    We finally had a chance to view the DVD of the British-produced film, “The First Grader”. The film was released May 13, 2011

    I think the movie was very interesting and well worth the time.

    My only objection was that the story-line seemed quite unbalanced and favorable to the Mau Mau. They were portrayed as being virtually without sin in the entire struggle for Kenya’s independence and I know this is not accurate. However, I guess that is to be expected. I recall the famous quote, usually attributed to US Senator Hiram Warren Johnson, who in 1918 is purported to have said: “The first casualty when war comes is truth”.

    I found the below-reproduced dialog, which occurred at the very end of the movie, to be of particular interest.

    A radio announcer is excitedly saying, presumably in about September 2005*:

    Wow! Now word has spread officially that Kimani Ng’ang’a Maruge has actually made it all the way to the United States of America, all by himself.

    Speaking to the U.N., to talk to the politicians.

    This is unbelievable. I can not even … Maruge in the United States speaking to the U.N.

    Can you … Can you believe it?

    You know, I’m now beginning to believe that one day a Kenyan … a Kenyan will go to the White House.

    But for now, according to me, Kimani Maruge is the headmaster of the world.

    Yes, we can!

    Of course, THIS IS JUST A MOVIE and the dialog may or may not reflect the actual statement of the original announcer, if in fact there even WAS an original announcer. Still, I think it’s interesting the BBC producers of the film felt that the 2005 statement about the ‘Kenyan going to the White House’ someday was important enough to leave as a parting thought for the viewers of their movie, which was released in 2011.

    *In September 2005, Maruge boarded a plane for the first time in his life, and headed to New York City to address the United Nations Millennium Development Summit on the importance of free primary education.

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