Not too old to learn: Primary school pupils above age 80


Age is no barrier to formal education. This has been demonstrated in each of our edition of ‘Not too old to learn. Primary education is generally the lowest level of education anyone could acquire.

It is conventional that those at this education level are between ages 2 and 13. But in this list, presents you seniors who enrolled in primary schools above age 80. This is at a time some would have thought it ridiculous to do such. Individuals in the list however braced for formal education with their grey hairs.

Not too old to learn: Primary school pupils above age 80

Priscilla Sitienei

When Priscilla Sitienei made headlines after joining a primary school in 2015, she was perhaps the oldest primary school pupil in Africa known to have done that.

She was 90 years old at the time. Based in Uasin Gishu county of Eldoret, Kenya, she found motivation in schooling in her eagerness to read the bible and learn how to text messages on her phone.

She therefore enrolled at Vision Preparatory School, Eldoret, where among her schoolmates are seven of her grand children.

Otherwise called Gogo (meaning grandmother in Kalenjin), the granny had dedicated much of her life to raising her children during which she was a midwife for 65 years.

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Though British colonial rule was in place while she was growing up, she never had the opportunity of schooling. Education, to her, is now a source of personal empowerment.

Her story is one of such that inspires the notion that “Education has no age limit”.

Kimani Murage

Another Kenyan from Eldoret, Kimani Murage enrolled in primary school in 2003 following the government’s free primary education initiative. The then 84 year old  The Guiness Book of World Records ranked him the oldest person to start primary school but that is obviously not the case here.

In his early years, he served as a combatant in the Mau Mau Uprising against the British colonizers in the 1950s.

The  widower and great-grandfather attended  Kapkenduiywo Primary School in Eldoret and in 2005, he was elected head boy of his school. Two of his 30 grandchildren attend the same school at the time too.

Murage attained global prominence in September of the same year when he addressed the United Nations World Summit on the importance of free primary education.

Following the 2007-2008 post-election violence in Kenya, he had to relocate to a refugee camp from where he goes to school after his property was stolen.

In June 2008, he relocated to Kenyan capital, Nairobi where he lived in a old people’s home. He temporarily stopped schooling before continuing in Standard 6 at the Marura primary school, located in the Kariobangi area of Nairobi.

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His story was turned into a film, The First Grader, starring Oliver Litondo and British actor Naomie Harris. He died of stomach cancer in 2009 at age 90.


Mohammud Modibbo

Mohammud Modibbo is believed to be Nigeria’s oldest primary school pupil. The Kano-born man had been a trader for most of his life before he embraced primary education in his mid-80s.

Mr Modibbo was an Islamic scholar who sat in school with pupils young enough to be his great-grandchildren, and even great-great grandchildren. He was able to complete primary school and had also passed the common entrance before his death at age 94 in 2015.

His teacher, Abdulkarim Ibrahim said the late nonagenarian had dreamed of going to university, while describing him as “easy-going and jovial”.

“During classes, he was very attentive and asked questions when he didn’t understand – either asking the teacher or a student sitting beside him,” Ibrahim told the BBC Hausa service.

Manuela Hernandez

Mrs Hernandez is the oldest person known to have enrolled and completed primary school education. She was already 100 years old when she graduated from primary school.

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The Mexican is from Oaxaca, originally left primary school after just one year so she could help her family with housework. She had returned to school in 2013 heeding to her grandchildren’s suggestion.

“I liked school very much, but I could not continue studying,” she told Uno TV.

In another interview with Sky News, she said her parents were poor and saw no need to enroll her in school since she was already useful to them.

“My parents did not insist on me studying. I wanted to go, but I couldn’t because my mother didn’t have the money. My uncle had put me in primary school, but in the following year, I could already wash and iron and they didn’t let me go, and they needed someone to work.” she said.

Ironically, there are many 15 and older children in Oaxaca who have not completed their primary education. Her graduation story had been featured on multiple TV channels as documentaries.

Watch this one below.

Aren’t such stories as these inspiring? It’s never too late to school.

Share your thoughts in the comment box below.


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