In People: Kimani Maruge

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Kimani Ng’ang’a Maruge was the most famous first grader in the world when he joined Kapkenduiywo Primary School in 2004. He was celebrated worldwide, but his stay in school was not without its challenges.

Find out why the great grandfather was almost expelled from school.

Kimani Maruge who was the oldest pupil in the world

The late Kimani Maruge was one of the notable people of Uasin Gishu. Maruge made headlines all over the world when he enrolled as a Grade 1 pupil at Kapkenduiywo Primary School in Eldoret in 2004. He was 84 years old.

Amazingly, Maruge’s academic performance was well above average. He was ranked 14th out of 58 classmates at his final year examination in 2005.

By the time of his death, Kimani Maruge was only two years away from completing his primary school education. It was a significant achievement, considering his age.

Even though Kimani Maruge passed away in 2009, he still holds the Guiness World Record for oldest pupil in the world.

Why Kimani Maruge Joined Grade One at 84

When president Mwai Kibaki came to power in 2003, he put in place a free primary education policy. This was one of the things that motivated for Kimani Maruge to go to school. He wanted to take advantage of the available opportunity.

Kimani Maruge  had always dreamed of reading the bible for himself, and he hoped that by going to school he would gain the ability to do so.


Kimani Maruge passed on in 2009. He was 89 years old. The octogenarian suffered from stomach cancer towards his end. The death occurred at the Kenyatta National Hospital and he was thereafter buried in Subukia.

In the same year that he died, Kimani Maruge was baptized at Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Nairobi. He was in a wheelchair, but that did not stop him from acquiring the name ‘Stephen’ as his baptismal name.

Kimani Maruge was survived by several children and 30 grandchildren.


Besides the Guinness World Records, Maruge was recognized when an international film was made in his honor. The film was known as The First Grader. Oliver Litondo and black English actress Naomi Harris starred in the movie that was shot in here Kenya.

Google honored Maruge with a Google Doodle on 12th January 2015. It was exactly 11 years since his his first day of school back in 2004.

Other Achievements

Going to school at 84 was not the only remarkable thing that Kimani Maruge did. The old man was also a Mau Mau veteran, who participated in the struggle for Kenya’s independence for British rule.

Perhaps in recognition of his tenacity and determination, the pupils at Kapkenduiywo decided to elect him as their head boy in 2005.

During the same year, Maruge had a memorable opportunity to fly to New York City for the United Nations 2005 World Summit where he talked about primary education and how important it was to him.

By the time Kimani Maruge died of cancer, he had achieved his greatest goal – to read the bible. He had acquired a Kiswahili bible for this purpose.


Despite all the fame and recognition that came with his status as a Guinness World Record holder, Kimani Maruge still passed through a lot of challenges. He was displaced during the Post Election Violence of 2007-2007. He ended up losing most of his personal property.

During Maruge’s time as a Mau Mau operative, he was tortured by the colonial administration. This left the man disabled and he had to walk around with a cane.

Maruge was forced to live in an Internally Displaced People’s camp for some time. He wentto Nairobi after that, where he joined Marura primary school and continued with his education until his health made it impossible to go on anymore.

Maruge did not have much time – by 2008, the Red Cross was moving him into an old age home where he would live more comfortably considering his age. He was a resident of the Kariobangi Cheshire Home for the Aged when he died.

What Kimani Maruge’s Life was Like in School

Kimani Maruge’s life at Kapkenduiywo Primary school was not all smooth sailing. Even though he was a hit with both teachers and pupils – who made him a headboy – there were some difficulties.

Less than two years into his academic career, Kimani Maruge faced imminent expulsion.

Some parents accused Maruge of getting preferential treatment from teachers. Some went as far as to doubt his good grades. Maruge was also accused of taking up too much attention and dominating the class. A parent at the school told a foreign journalist that children did not concentrate because they were too focused on the great grandfather in their midst.

When a delegation of parents turned up at the headmaster’s office asking for him to be expelled, Maruge protested. He said that education was important for him to be able to count his money and read his bible.

Maruge was mourned by his children and grandchildren as well as his teachers and all those who interacted with him along his extraordinary journey.




Joyce Sambu
Author: Joyce Sambu


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