11-01-2022 by Freddie del Curatolo
This year she will be ninety-eight years old and only the pandemic has made her lose a school season, but not the passion and the iron will to reach the goal of getting her elementary school license (which is equivalent to our middle school license) while celebrating a century of life.
We are talking about Priscilla Sitienei, known by everyone in the province of Ndalat, in the middle of the Kenyan Rift Valley, as "Gogo", which in the local idiom means "grandmother".
On Malindikenya.net we had told seven years ago the beginning of this fantastic story, when Priscilla, after having worked for a lifetime as a midwife, had decided to enroll in school, because she was still illiterate.
As a child, I didn't have this possibility," declared the oldest student in Africa and probably the world in an interview with the BBC. "I would like to be able to read the Bible, just as I would like to write down all the recipes using traditional herbs. And I would like to be an inspiration to other children to get an education. Too many grown kids don't go to school. Some already have children of their own. When I meet some of them on the street, they tell me they are too old for school. And I say, "Well, I'm going, though. And so should you." Too many of them have lost their parents and are wandering the streets, hopeless. I want to encourage them to go to school."
If Heaven allowed her to make it to her 100th birthday intact, it was only her fortitude and iron will that allowed her to enroll in the penultimate class (the seventh year) of Leaders Vision Preparatory School in Ndalat, Nandi County.
Her incredible perseverance was also rewarded by the French première dame Brigitte Macron, who invited her to Paris last September.
The occasion was to present a documentary film about her, directed by French director Pascal Plissom. A production that lasted two years, with filming in the school attended by the supermother, in the hills of Nandi and in the Maasai Mara National Reserve.
And the nonagenarian grandmother turned out to be a very good actress as well, and she didn't betray her shyness when recounting her journey.
"My tour of France was full of opportunities," said Gogo, "It was a trip like no other. It was my first time traveling by plane and out of the country. There are no words to explain my happiness. The French people are good-hearted. They gave me a warm and heroic welcome. I experienced their love and found in them great humility."
Priscilla Sitienei in France also visited some elementary schools and explained to pupils of all ages the importance of education, and how lucky those who can access it easily are."
"I will continue my studies until the day my body is too frail to walk," promises Gogo, "and go to high school, if I still have the energy. A vision problem negatively affected my studies, but I was well taken care of and my learning was able to continue."
Next milestone, first school graduation and 100 candles.
"But above all, I hope I can be an example to the whole world to make people understand that education is the greatest wealth for man - admits Gogo - Thanks to culture, if you want, you can become what you want to be".
The filming of the documentary film "Italian in Kenya" has ended. It's a short feature commissioned by the Italian Foreign Ministry, through the Italian Institute of Culture in Nairobi, as part of the week of Italian language in the world.