The world’s oldest student dies in Kenya at the age of 99

The world’s oldest primary school student, Priscilla Sitieni, whose determination to pursue an education in her 90s inspired a French film and was praised by UNESCO, has died in Kenya aged 99, local media reported.

Her grandson, Sammy Chepsiror, told The Standard newspaper that Gogo Priscilla (Granny Priscilla), as she was affectionately known, died at home on Wednesday after developing a breast complication.

“Gogo was in good health and attended her classes until three days before her death, when she developed chest pains that forced her to leave school,” he told the newspaper on Thursday.

“We are grateful for the 100 years of her life. She made us all proud,” he added.

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She was 94 when she persuaded the principal of the local school in her village in Kenya’s Rift Valley to take her in, according to UNESCO, which hailed her as “a role model for her community and beyond”.

In an interview with the UN agency last year, she said her goal is to motivate young mothers in Kenya to return to school after the birth of their children, rather than dropping them out of shame or fear of social stigma.

“I wanted to set an example not just for them, but for other girls around the world who aren’t in school,” she said.

“Without education there is no difference between you and a chicken,” she said.

“Education is your future. Education stays in your mind forever and you can’t lose it once you have it.”

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Her efforts were documented in a French film called Gogo, which prompted her to take a plane for the first time last year to visit France and meet First Lady Brigitte Macron.

The film’s co-writer Patrick Pessis paid tribute to her Thursday, tweeting, “Her message about girls’ education lives on.”

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