A Kenyan woman believed to be the oldest primary school pupil in the world has died. 

Priscilla Sitienei passed on peacefully at home at the ripe age of 99, her grandson told the BBC.

She started having health complications on Wednesday, Nov. 16 after returning from school, where she and her 12-year-old classmates were preparing for their final exams scheduled this week.

Sitienei enrolled at the Leaders Vision Preparatory School in 2010. Prior to that, she served her village of Ndalat in the Rift Valley as a midwife for more than 65 years, helping deliver some of her own classmates who were then aged between 10 and 14.

Priscilla Sitienei in class

The school turned her away initially but soon realized how committed she was to learning.

Affectionately called “Gogo” – grandmother in her local Kalenjin language – she told the BBC in 2015 she was finally learning to read and write, an opportunity she didn’t have as a child.

Sitienei’s story earned her praise from Unesco – the UN’s culture and education agency.

It is also the inspiration for a French film entitled Gogo, opening an opportunity for her to visit France and meet first lady Brigitte Macron.

Last year, Sitienei told Unesco she wanted to motivate young mothers to return to school.

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

Sitienei often confronted children who were not in school and asked them why.

“They tell me they are too old,” she said. “I tell them: ‘Well I am at school and so should you.'”

She added: ”I see children who are lost, children who are without fathers, just going round and round, hopeless. I want to inspire them to go to school.”

Sitienei grew up in colonial Kenya and lived through the country’s struggle for independence.

“Her message about girls’ education lives on,” Patrick Pessis, co-writer of the film Gogo, wrote – paying her a tribute on Twitter.


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