Priscilla Sitienei is one of my heroes

This is an older story so I am not sure if Gogo Sitienei is still alive, but it shows the importance of education.

I am a teacher from Africa and I have had students walk for hours without breakfast just to come to their university lectures. They have asked to be locked in the computer labs overnight so they could study, because they do not have electricity or a computer at home. Sometimes their first night in a university hall of residence is the first time they have ever slept in a proper bed. They soak up knowledge like sponges. They are passionate about learning, in a way that you seldom see in developed countries. Because education is a key to a bright future, a way out of poverty. And it has not always been offered to all. That is why Gogo Sitienei’s story warms my heart so much.

At Leaders Vision Preparatory School in Ndalat, Kenya, one student stands out from the rest — 90-year-old Priscilla Sitienei! The nonagenarian, who attends school alongside six of her great-great-grandchildren, is believed to be the oldest primary school student in the world. Although she never had an opportunity to learn to read and write as a child, Sitienei now hopes that her example will inspire the children of her community to understand just how valuable education is.

Affectionately known as Gogo, which means “grandmother” in the local Kalenjin language, Sitienei has been a midwife for 65 years and she even delivered several of her 10 to 14-year-old classmates. When she first applied to the school, they refused her admission until they realized how committed she was to getting an education. Five years after she began studying, Headmaster David Kinyanjui says “I’m very proud of her. Gogo has been a blessing to this school, she has been a motivator to all the pupils. She is loved by every pupil, they all want to learn and play with her.”

Now a class prefect, Sitienei participates in all of the classes, including math, English, PE, dance, drama, and singing. And, she also teaches her fellow students about local customs and traditions. Expectant mothers still seek her out and she assists with deliveries when needed. Part of her motivation for reading and writing is to pass on her midwife expertise and her knowledge of herbal medicine to further generations.

Sitienei told BBC News that she will confront children she sees who have left school and ask why. “Too many older children are not in school… I see children who are lost, children who are without fathers, just going round and round, hopeless. I want to inspire them to go to school.” she explained. “They tell me they are too old. I tell them, ‘Well I am at school and so should you.’” She hopes that her example will also inspire children around the world: “I want to say to the children of the world, especially girls, that education will be your wealth, don’t look back and run to your father. With education you can be whatever you want.”

To read more or watch a video about Priscilla Sitienei’s inspiring story on the BBC, visit

Author: Janet Carr

Fashion, beauty and animal loving language consultant from South Africa living in Stockholm, Sweden.

3 thoughts

  1. In the dictionary under “inspiration” is Priscilla Sitienei’s picture.

    On the other hand, my sister (who’s six years my senior) told me (when I was a young lass) that she had cut (skipped) classes in junior high.

    I am the total opposite of her. I could NEVER fathom skipping school due to the fact that I have respect for authority – nevermind the fact that education is very important for one’s future.

    And, as you can imagine, she really is NOT the sharpest tool in the shed.

    Moral of this story is: Stay in school, children, and learn, learn, learn. Do not ever stop learning. Learning stops only when you stop breathing.

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