Google today has paid tribute to Stephen Kimani Maruge 11th anniversary of his first day in school.
Kimani Ng’ang’a Maruge was recognised by the Guinness Book of Records as the world’s oldest pupil to start primary school after the then NARC government introduced free primary education. He enrolled in the first grade on January 12, 2004, aged 84. Although he had no papers to prove his age, Maruge believed he was born in 1920.
The Google Doodle features Maruge in his school uniform, with six young pupils around him. On the search page Maruge is also depicted with his books forming the letter “O” of the word Google as the word is also displayed on the desk. Next to him is a young boy whose books also depict the letter “L” in the word Google.
On clicking on his photo on the Google Search Page, one is led to Maruge’s Wikipedia page, and also gets to view his images, YouTube clips and many more stories written about him.
Maruge attended Kapkenduiywo Primary School in Eldoret Kenya. In 2005 Maruge, who was a model student, was elected head boy of his school. In his own words, Maruge said that he went back to school so that he could achieve his dream of attaining higher education and being able to read the Bible.
In September 2005, Maruge boarded a plane for the first time in his life, and headed to New York City to address the United Nations Millennium Development Summit on the importance of free primary education.
Maruge’s property was stolen during the 2007-2008 post-election violence, and he contemplated quitting school. During early 2008 he lived in a refugee camp, where he was reportedly a minor celebrity, four kilometres from his school, but still attended classes every day. In June 2008, he relocated to the capital Nairobi.
In June 2008, Maruge was forced to withdraw from school and relocate to a retirement home for senior citizens. However, soon after, on June 10, 2008, Maruge enrolled once again into grade 6 at the Marura primary school, located in the Kariobangi area of Nairobi.
Maruge died on August 14, 2009 of stomach cancer, at the Cheshire Home for the Aged in Nairobi.
In tribute to him a feature film about Kimani Maruge, starring Oliver Litondo and Naomie Harris titled The First Grader, was released on May 13, 2011. The British-produced film was shot on location in the Rift Valley in Kenya, despite earlier reports that it would be filmed in South Africa.