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74-year-old man joins Form One with his two sons

By Muareen Ongala | Updated Fri, February 3rd 2017 at 00:00 GMT +3
74 years old Kazungu Kandege Hamudi in class at Ganze Primary School in 2016 breaks into tears as he explains to journalists how he narrowly escaped death one of the reasons that make him go to school to seek refuge. 2nd February 2017. Photo Maureen Ongala

A 74-year-old man yesterday reported at Ganze Boys Secondary School where he was enrolled in Form One.

Kazungu Humadi Kadenge from Kimbule village, Ganze Constituency in  Kilifi County opted to go back to class to escape being branded a sorcerer and to liberate himself from being looked down upon for being illiterate.

And for his efforts, he scored 134 marks in last year’s Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) at Ganze Primary School.

The late Kimani Maruge holds the Guinness World Record for being the oldest person to start primary school. He enrolled in Standard One on January 12, 2004, aged 84.

READ BIBLE

Kadenge is determined to combat the stigma of illiteracy in a community where illiterate and poor people who cannot read the Bible are often associated with witchcraft.

The father of seven joined Ganze Primary School last year in Standard Three with special permission from the national government.

Having abandoned school in Standard Four about 50 years ago, teachers were not sure of his reading and writing skills. But after he proved possession of basic literacy skills, he insisted on registering for the KCPE examination and his wish was granted.

Teachers volunteered to teach and revive his old skills in a separate classroom, away from young pupils.

Kadenge had earlier escaped death narrowly over witchcraft allegations. His elder brother was lynched on suspicion that he practised witchcraft.

Despite being the founder of Kimbule Nursery School, which is now Kimbule Primary School, and a church in the same village in 2000 and 2001 respectively, Kadenge was kicked out of the school’s management due to illiteracy.

Speaking to the Press at Ganze Boys’ Secondary School, he said dropped out of school because his father turned him into a herder.

“After I matured, I had no option but to look for ways to sustain myself as a mason. That it when one white man employed me as a casual worker on his farm and later assisted me secure a job as a labourer with Kenya Power and Lightning (KPLC) in 1982,” he said.

He was involved in an accident which left him with a wounded leg, forcing him to leave employment in 1990. He concentrated on church affairs and the nursery school.

NOT AT PEACE

“In my efforts to get support to construct my nursery school, I met donors from one non-government organisation who agreed to put up two classrooms... I handed over the school to the Ministry of Education and this is when the management said it would be difficult for me to lead the school because I was illiterate,” said Kadenge.

The Form One student has joined two of his sons – one in Form Four and his sibling in Form Two – at the same school after he refused an offer to join a school in Taita County.

“I need to be close to my children so that I can monitor them and observe if there is anything that can make them drop out of school,” he said.

He lamented that the community does not recognise him even after several development activities he started.

With all the community projects he established – the school, church, water project, cassava project and now a dairy goat project – still community does not recognise him.

He has been branded a witch and was not at peace when he realised that he was being targeted as the next one to be killed.

His wife Kanadzina Kadenge did not want her husband to go back to school because he is the family’s breadwinner.

“I told my wife that I wanted to go back to school and that God would open ways for those still in school to finish,” he added.

In future, he wants to be the chairperson of the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission to fight corruption, which he said had plagued the country and was the reason he was not paid his dues by the power company.

Geoffrey Kombe, who is in charge of humanities at the school, said he is the second old student to join the school although the first one aged 60 years dropped out.

According to the Kilifi County Commissioner, killing of elderly people on claims of witchcraft has been rampant. He called for an end to witchhunt.

“In three weeks, 16 people have been killed and mostly in Chonyi and Junju in Kilifi South and Palakumi in Ganze constituencies,” said the administrator.