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Back to school at 98, a Kenyan sets an example for the next generation

NANDI, Kenya, Feb 9 (Reuters) – In a stone classroom in Kenya’s Rift Valley, Priscilla Sitienei, who turns 99 on Friday, takes notes alongside other students who are all over eight decades younger than her.

Dressed in the school uniform of a gray dress and green sweater, Sitienei said she returned to class to set a good example for her great-grandchildren and to pursue a new career.

“I would like to become a doctor because I was a midwife,” she told Reuters, adding that her children supported her decision.

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The government of this East African country began subsidizing the cost of primary education in 2003, allowing some older members of society who had missed out on education in their youth to rekindle their dreams.

It has propelled some of the older students to stardom, including Sitienei, who traveled to Paris last year to launch a film about her journey called “Gogo”. “Gogo” means grandmother in her native language Kalenjin. She will also soon travel to New York for the launch of the film.

Sitienei, who is in his sixth year of primary school, says his goals were far more practical than becoming a movie star.

She said she got the idea when her great-granddaughter dropped out of school after becoming pregnant. “I asked her jokingly if she had any fee balance left in school and she said yes, I told her I would use it to start school.”

She had hoped her great-granddaughter would return to school, she said, but when she refused, Sitienei decided to go to school herself.

She said she also enjoys other school activities alongside her other great-grandchildren, including physical education lessons.

“It keeps me in shape. I can jump everywhere, even if it’s not as much as they can, but at least I move my body. That’s my joy,” she said. .

His teachers draw on his vast experience to keep the peace during class.

“I have her be my class supervisor looking for the noisemakers in class. So, she managed to do this job. When I go out, the class is silent,” said Leonida Talaam, her teacher.

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Reporting by Monicah Njeri; Written by Duncan Miriri; Editing by Maggie Fick and Emelia Sithole-Matarise

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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