01 March 2012

First Grader

Picture from the movie

I'm here in Nairobi.  Came to bring a friend to the airpot.  Ended up spend some time with a Kenyan friend here.  Last night we went to watch the movie "First Grader".  This is a movie about an 84 year old man, Kimani Maruge, that went to Primary school in 2003 after the Kenyan government had just made primary education free.

I didn't know they made a film about it and it seemed to have slipped unnoticed by many Americans as it was featured in select theaters in 2011 in the US.  Now it is showing in Kenya.

The first year I moved to Kenya, his story was becoming popular in the newspapers.  He was going to school less than an hour from where I lived.  Once while in Eldoret town, someone saw him pass through in his school uniform but I missed it.  Time went by and I never heard of it again.  So getting to really hear his story through this moving was great.

Although I haven't heard a lot of negative press, I would be interested to hear how much of the story was true and not.  Some say they altered to appeal to the western culture.  Sure, it did that.  Either way, it was beautifully made film with great music.  It gives you a glimpse into this country, the scenes, the children, the school, the songs, the place where people live, ect.  I did find an article where the family of this man said he went so that he could learn to read his bible.  Well that was definitely not shown in the film.  But good to know.  This article was interesting: http://millionairetips.hubpages.com/hub/Kimani-Nganga-Maruge

It also gives some history of British colonial times.  It was educational.  It made me thankful for how Kenya is today and the hope children can have for their future here.  And made me really wish I wasn't white since often in villages, the older generation relates white people to colonial time.  Yeah, I've had encounters of meeting the older generation in villages and I was the first white person they had seen since colonial times.  That was fun.  I've also been yelled at that I'm here to colonize.  Ha.  But really, it was good to show we're not like that and then they were receptive to having us as visitors.  Another story for another time.

It really makes you realize how far Kenya has come.  Although it doesn't excuse the way certain things are, it at least gives you an appreciation for how far along things have come in regards to freedom and education.  You know, Kenya has only been a country since 1963?

Maruge then had the opportunity to go to New York to give a speech before the UN on the importance of free education.  The longer I'm here, the more I realize how very important free education is.  Education helps to... um, educate people.  Lightbulb.  Which brings maturity.  This is a whole long conversation in itself.

All this to say, you should figure out how to get your hands on this film and watch it!  My friend and I cried and laughed through it all.  It was great to have my Kenyan friend by my side so I could ask questions to understand the history here a little more.  Sometimes I just want to go back to the village life and sit in mud huts all day, drinking chai and just listening and learning.  There's so much to learn here and the last thing I would want to do is come in as the white person that knows how to fix everyones problem with some great big program.  No, no, I just want to sit with the people and love them where they are.  I was able to share with a group of girls lately how it doesn't matter where they are born that defines how much God loves them.  It looked like another lightbulb moment for them.  If only we can all love each other where we are at, just like Jesus does.

Actual picture of Maruge in a school uniform like the other children.

You can also watch a clip on youtube of the film:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U-eBT7vnTLE
Or read more on, what they say, is the official website:  http://www.thefirstgrader-themovie.com/


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