The First Grader is an amazing film about the power of education. It’s based on a true story about a primary school in Kenya.
This small school is opened because of the government’s promise of free education for all. They are completely overwhelmed with students who want to learn and as such have over 200 students enroll.
Kimani N’gan’ga Maruge, an 84 year old man, shows up to the school because he believed in the promise of free education for all. He is given several reasons as to why he can’t attend the school. He walks away disappointed but comes back the very next day to try again. After a few days of this, the teacher decides to take him in.
It was amazing to see the children and this old man learning together side-by-side in an over-crowded classroom. There were five or six students sharing each desk and several having to sit on the floor.
Many people are upset that an old man is attending the children’s school, and the both the teacher and Maruge are constantly threatened and intimidated.
The story is set against a political backdrop and we learn of the tough times Maruge has gone through in his life. We also see how the kids learn from having an elder in the classroom and how much they can learn from each other.
The teacher ends up being transferred out of the school. The students are really upset about losing their beloved teacher and stand up against the injustice of it. It’s a great scene that can remind us the power that students, when united, can have. What they do is inspiring.
I want my students to realize that they have a voice, that all students are important and have something to offer, and that education itself is something that should be cherished as much as the characters in this film cherish it.
We can learn a lot from a good movie. I would love to show this to my classes. It’s rated PG-13 though because of a few disturbing flashback scenes.
There is a lot of history that could be taught through the use of this movie, as well as notions of tolerance, acceptance, and how thankful we should be for our schools and public education system. That’s not to say that things are perfect but we do have clean water, lots of resources, and the ideal of free education for all. That is not something that we should take for granted.
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