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School pupil, 90, dies in Kenya

14 August 09 20:10 GMT

Kenya's oldest pupil, Kimani Nganga Maruge, has died in Nairobi aged 90.

The great-grandfather held the Guinness World Record for being the oldest person to start primary school, at the age of 84.

His house in the Rift Valley was burnt down in post-election violence last year and he was later moved from a camp to an old people's home in the capital.

Despite the disruption, Mr Maruge kept hard at his studies and had two years left to finish his primary education.

Mr Maruge, a veteran of the Mau Mau independence movement, never had the opportunity to go to school when he was younger.

The father-of-five said he wanted to learn how to read the Bible for himself and he was also suspicious that he might not have been getting his full pension so he was also keen to study maths.

In 2004 he enrolled at Kapkenduywa primary school, in Eldoret, a year after the Kenyan government introduced free primary schooling.

With one of the best attendance records he was made a prefect in the school.

Two of his 30 grandchildren, who had been at the same school, said he had eventually wanted to complete a veterinary diploma.

'Courageous'

Mumbi Kamuri, head of Cheshire Homes in Kenya where Mr Maruge spent the last year of his life, told the BBC he was dedicated to his studies right to the end.

Even after he was diagnosed with cancer in February he asked for teachers to teach him at home, she said.

"He was a very courageous man," she said.

"Even if you don't see it through to the end, you will still have achieved something."

In 2005, he travelled to the United States where he called on world leaders attending a summit to make education for the poor a priority.

The BBC's Will Ross in Nairobi says he will be remembered by many people as an inspirational figure who brought new meaning to the phrase, "it's never too late".

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