The First Grader (2011) - Review by Kumaran Shanmugam
This is a true biographical film about an octogenarian Kenyan farmer Kimani Maruge who joins the elementary school at the ripe old age of 84 taking into advantage of the Kenyan government's announcement of Universal free education to all in 2003.
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When he approached an elementary school in his village the principal and teacher Mrs. Jane obinchu are very sceptical about admitting him and her colleague discouraged her and ridiculed the old man. He, however, gains admission into the school. He shows a lot of enthusiasm in learning and adapts to the new environment and moves well with fellow students of the age of his grandchildren. In the lunch hours, he entertained the fellow students with stories of his exploits as a freedom fighter in the Mau Mau Independence movement of the 1950s.
Sometimes the flashback memories of Mau Mau violence make him hallucinate which disturbs the class. He is humiliated by the villagers when he walks to school with his bag. The parents of the students disapprove his presence in the school.
The education minister is alerted and he issues an order to expel the octogenarian student from the school and relocate him to the to an adult education facility. By this time Jane is fascinated by Maruge's determination and enthusiasm and he becomes her favorite student. She develops a special affection for him.
The order from there Education Minister unsettled her and she confronts the education minister and explains the situation and tries to revoke the order. Despite her relentless Pursuits and perseverance, she meets failure. Her activities to protect Maruge backfires in her family life as her husband objects to her efforts to help him.
Maruge bids farewell to the school with a heavy heart surrounded by Jane and fellow students all fighting it hard to quell the tears in their eyes. Maruge continues classes in an adult education facility where he is delusional by the lack of spirit and enthusiasm in the company of elderly students.
He quits the education facility and joins Jane as a teaching assistant which is disapproved by her colleagues and parents. This tussle in the school makes it to the news headlines and Jane is transferred to another School.
Maruge is enraged by the act of the education department and he meets the education department officials and personally fights the case of Jane and succeeds in getting her reinstated in the same School. The film ends in in a happy note with scenes showing Maruge and the students welcoming back Mrs. Jane to the school.
The First Grader (2011) - Trailer
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