Fear of HIV and Aids sends 71-year-old Baringo midwife back to primary school - Evewoman

Achieving Woman

Fear of HIV and Aids sends 71-year-old Baringo midwife back to primary school

71 year old Loise Tukongole (right) a mother of 15 childreen battles for the ball with her classmates during games time at Chepturu primary school

It is hard to find a person who can follow in the late Kimani Ng'ang'a Maruge's footsteps and go back to class at an advanced age. Mr Maruge is the man who caught the world's attention when he enrolled in Standard One on January 12, 2004 at the age of 84.

But although she is unlikely to beat Maruge's record and break his Guinness World Record, Loise Tukongole, 71, is on the road to putting her name in the annals of history for the same reason as the man who was described in the movies as "The First Grader".

Ms Tukongole, a great-grandmother, will sit for her Kenya Certificate of Primary Education Examinations (KCPE) this year.

She is a mother of 15 children.

"It is only my last born and I who have taken up the challenge. My other 14 children have not enrolled in school but that has never discouraged us," the ever smiling woman revealed.

The elderly pupil says that education will help her pass on her midwifery skills and help women from her community to deliver in safe environment unlike in the past.

"I was scared to the bone marrow by the news of HIV and Aids. I felt exposed to the disease because of the poor delivery tools I have used for the last four decades and I decided to go back to school in order to acquire modern knowledge," she said.

According to her, expectant mothers still come to see her, usually on weekends, and she has been known to assist in births in her house, which she shares with her children and grandchildren.

In class, the woman is always sandwiched between two boys Kenneth Kulei, 15, and Joshua Keris, 13.

When we visited her class, we spotted the two boys helping their elderly classmate retrieve a pen that she had dropped on the floor.

The schoolboys say the grandmother likes to keep the class in order and  whenever pupils make noise she tells them to keep quiet.

"She is always strict and whenever she stands in front of the class, every pupil shuts up," explained Keris as they left the classroom for a nearby field.

The woman, who joined Chepturu Public Primary School in Baringo in Standard Four, has for decades served her community as a midwife.

She revealed that she had even helped the mothers of some of her teachers to deliver.

"I helped to deliver some of my teachers. I midwifed their mothers," she said amid laughter.

All her exercise books are neatly covered with old newspapers and smartly arranged inside a school bag made of goat skin decorated with green and red ornaments.

"I feel disturbed when I see young girls circumcised and married at a tender age to men we grew up together with those days; young promising children who can go far if provided with a shoulder to lean on. These hopeless souls need to be inspired and that is why I decided to go back to school," she said.

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Her husband Tukongole Akanichom died in 2006.

Her class teacher, James Barchiba, said the pupil, who is his mother's agemate, is hardworking and has passion to read and write.

"Her main problem is that she is shortsighted and always sits in front. Amid the challenges, I can say she is an average pupil who is optimistic of her academic vision," he said.

Smartly dressed and wearing a weave, she confidently talks about her performance in various subjects.

But it is not only in classroom that she is hopeful about performing well. At the playground, the woman fights for the ball with young girls during a foot ball matches lasting up to 30 minutes.

During free time, she tells stories to her classmates under trees near the playing fields to make sure her knowledge of local customs is passed on.

And like every pupil, she brings water and firewood to school every morning and shares lunch with the pupils under a leafless tree in front of the school kitchen.

The headmaster Wilson Loliet said the grandmother is the first adult to take the challenge to go to school since the school was established in 1983.

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