Never Too Late

 In The Village of Bedford Walk

The old adage that you can’t teach old dog new tricks was shattered in 2004 when Kimani Ng’ang’a  Margue attended first grade. No one really knows his exact age, but At the time of his enrollment he was believed to be approximately 84 years old  Maruge was an illiterate member of the Kikuyu tribe living in Kenya. The government of Kenya had recently established a universal free education to all people.  In earlier years Maruge was a Mau Mau fighter in the war of independence against the British. Later in life, as a farmer, he demanded to be taught to read.  Many of the parents of the children in the class were opposed to this elderly man sitting in class with their six year olds, but he was eventually accepted. Maruge was the subject of both a documentary and a feature film, The First Grader.

Google honored this amazing man by placing a doodle of him on their homepage on the 11th anniversary date of his enrollment in school.  According to Dorothy Ooky, Google’s communications manager for East and Francophone Africa,  “Kimani Maruge was an extraordinary Kenyan whose passion for education throughout his life shines as a beacon worldwide on the importance of lifelong learning.“ Kimani’s brave attempt at literacy shows us the triumph of spirit and the enduring need to continue growing and learning, despite the age.

Many believe that keeping the mind alert and active is the key to successful aging. A Harvard Medical School publication states that higher levels of education are associated with better mental functioning in old age. Advanced education may help keep memory strong by getting a person into the habit of being mentally active. Challenging the brain with mental exercise is believed to activate processes that help maintain individual brain cells and stimulate communication among them. Many people have jobs that keep them mentally active, but pursuing a hobby, learning a new skill, or volunteering for a project at work that involves skills you don’t usually use can function the same way.

Maruge did not need research from Harvard to steer him toward education; he knew that challenging himself and striving for a better world began with his education and his literacy. There is a great deal to learn from someone who is not afraid to continue moving forward and embracing life. Finding the courage to try something new is rewarding no matter your age. Today, think about something that you have always want to try, to learn, or do, and consider how you can start taking steps to make that happen.  An old Chinese proverb says,” “Pearls don’t lie on the seashore. If you want one, you must dive for it.”

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