Elderly man, 80, enrolls for primary education

John Kamwenji, 80, attends grade 3 class at Giakaibei Primary School in Mathira, Nyeri on January 16, 2019. [Kibata Kihu/Standard]
John Kamwenji Nyamu's bid to get an education has been dogged by misfortune. He dropped out of primary school in 1960 when the colonial government increased fees from Sh20 a year to Sh62.

Nyamu, now 80, said he could not raise the money after his father abandoned the family and his mother died of cancer.

He decided to go into farming, which he practised for 30 years. But his desire to acquire an education remained alive.

Nearly 60 years later, Nyamu decided to go back to school, this time enrolling for adult education classes in Mathira constituency, Nyeri County.

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Once again his education was interrupted when his only teacher retired unexpectedly.

He did not give up. On Monday this week, Nyamu arrived at Giakaibei Primary School, where he enrolled in Grade Three.

"I always knew I would go back to school and I am happy that day finally came. It is even better since education is free," Nyamu said.

He added: "I can now achieve my dreams by taking advantage of the free primary education the Government introduced in 2004. It is never too late."

Nyamu's greatest desire is to know how to read and write so he can write a book about his life.

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Just like Kimani Ng'ang'a Maruge, who joined Standard One on January 12, 2004, aged 84, Nyamu is sitting in the same classroom with pupils the age of his grandchildren.

Maruge, who died on August 14, 2009, holds the Guinness World Record for being the oldest person to start primary school. Although he had no papers to prove his age, Maruge believed he was born in 1920.

He joined school after President Mwai Kibaki's administration introduced free primary education. Maruge epitomised the thirst many Kenyans had for education, but were locked out of the classroom by the high fees schools charged.

Nyamu said he had only been in school for two years when the colonial authorities ended his dream buy increasing school fees.

“I had enrolled at a 'gumbaru' school but our teacher just left one day and never came back. I decided to come to Giakaibei and they did not turn me away,” he said.

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Teachers at Giakaibei said Nyamu was determined to know how to read and write, both in Kiswahi and English.

They said he got to school at 6am, before all the other pupils.

"I want to write a book that narrates my personal life experiences, especially during the colonial era," he said.

"I was a young man during the Mau Mau liberation war. I use to be send to deliver messages to people and groups.”

The Giakaibei headteacher, Florence Mbau, said although Nyamu had presented the school with an unusual situation, it would support him to enable him achieve his dreams.

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"He is very determined. He is happy to be in school and wants to learn how to read. He needs encouragement and support to be able to read," said Mrs Mbau.

Asked why he should go to all the trouble just to write a book, Nyamu said he did not trust anyone else to tell his story.

John Kamwenji NyamuPrimary Education