99-year-old primary school student dies in Kenya

Priscilla Sitienei lived through her country’s struggle for independence

A 99-year-old woman believed to be the world’s oldest primary school pupil has died peacefully at her home in Kenya, her grandson told the BBC.

Priscilla Sitienei started experiencing health complications after attending the class on Wednesday.

She and her 12-year-old classmates were preparing for final exams starting next week.

Ms. Sitienei’s story inspired a film and praise from the UN’s cultural and educational agency, Unesco.

She grew up in a Kenya occupied by the British and lived through her country’s struggle for independence.

She told Unesco last year that she wanted to encourage young mothers to return to school.

“I wanted to set an example not only to them but to other girls around the world who don’t go to school, without education, there will be no difference between you and a chicken,” she said.

She joined Leaders Vision Preparatory School in 2010 but also served her village of Ndalat in the Rift Valley as a midwife for over 65 years.

She had even helped give birth to some of her classmates, who were between the ages of 10 and 14 at the time.

Affectionately known as “Gogo”, which means grandmother in the local Kalenjin language, she told the BBC in 2015 that she was finally learning to read and write – an opportunity she never had as a child.

He often confronted children who did not go to school and asked them why.

“They tell me they’re too big,” he said. “I tell them: Well, I’m in school and so should you.”

“I see children who are lost, children who are without fathers, just wandering around, desperate. I want to inspire them to go to school,” he added.

“Her message lives on”

At first the school put her off, but she soon realized how dedicated she was to learning.

Her story was told in a French film called Gogo, which opened up the opportunity for her to visit France and meet first lady Brigitte Macron.

Brigitte Macron, Priscilla Tarkwen Sitienei aka Gogo

Brigitte Macron (l) and Ms. Sitienei during the premiere of a film about the life of the non-born

The film’s co-writer Patrick Pessis paid tribute on Twitter: “Her message of educating girls lives on.”

The current record for the world’s oldest primary school student in the Guinness Book of Records is held by another Kenyan, the late Kimani Maruge.

He went to school aged 84 in 2004 and died five years later.

The BBC contacted the record holders to see if they would update their records.

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