Woman joins Class One at 78 years

Monday May 27 2013

SLIDESHOW: Mariana Ololo, Kenya's oldest female pupil
Ms Mariana Ololo, 78, is welcomed by class teacher Ms Beatrice Akinyi (left) upon her admission to class one at Obambo primary school in Siaya county. Photo/JACOB OWITI
Ms Mariana Ololo, 78, is welcomed by class teacher Ms Beatrice Akinyi (left) upon her admission to class one at Obambo primary school in Siaya county. Photo/JACOB OWITI
By ELVIS ONDIEKI [email protected]

She is in Standard One against many odds: At 78 years, she is frail, and within a week, she has already skipped school for two days due to an illness. To make matters worse, she smokes.

Obambo Primary School in Siaya County admitted the “pupil” this term. Mrs Mariana Ong’ango Ololo, now the 87th pupil in the class, has left tongues wagging among residents of Yenga Village in Obambo Sub Location.

When Nation visited the school two weeks ago, Mrs Ololo was yet to be admitted, two days after she made her unannounced entry to the school on May 14.

She had arrived clad in a full school uniform, her head shaved clean and with a bag on her back. Her 56-year-old son George Ololo, who is an alumnus of the school, was accompanying her as the guardian.

Mrs Ololo however, could not join class just yet. The school headmaster advised her not to get into class before teachers held a meeting to discuss how to deal with her.

“It is a unique case. We have to lay down a strategy of handling such an elderly pupil,” said Mr Joseph Mulo, the school head.

She was later admitted to class and attended lessons from Monday, May 20, through Thursday. She could not make it to school on Friday as she had fallen ill. Her illness persisted through the weekend, meaning that she couldn’t make it to class Tuesday.

Mrs Ololo’s is a story of swimming against the tide.

A mother of eight and a widow since 2002, she is one of the few women in her matrimonial home who have an unwavering interest in politics — the biggest reason behind her decision to join school. For a long time, Mrs Ololo has been drumming up support for various aspirants in the area.

“She is a great mobiliser. Whenever she throws her weight behind a particular candidate, she is unstoppable,” said her son, George,

Former Alego-Usonga MP Edwin Yinda and former area councilor Adero Kayenga have previously benefitted from Mrs Ololo’s campaign skills.

“She usually tells us how much she admires English; that she is always moved when she hears people conversing in English,” said her son.

She also told the Nation that she is always at a loss whenever foreign guests pay her a visit.

“I normally feel I have not spoken my heart out whenever I speak to visitors that come with my sons. I wish I could speak to them directly,” she said.

But what made her not to look back on her dream of going to school was the recent change of guard at State House.

“Uhuru Kenyatta is not an old man, but took over as fourth President because he has got an education. That is a clear indicator that a person cannot rank highly in society without an education,” she said.

Her son added that she had a sense of fascination with the “digital” era that the Jubilee government had promised to usher in.

While most of her peers would be at home during their sunset days, Mrs Ololo is determined to stay in class till the day her dreams come true.

“It wasn’t easy letting her go to school. At first we thought it was a joke, but she insisted. We asked her how she would survive in class, for she is a smoker. She promised to let go of tobacco as long as she was in class. So we had no option but to fulfill her wish,” explained her son George.

Mrs Ololo has something of pride in her five sons: All of them were educated up to Form Four.

“My husband Andrewo Ololo worked hard and educated all our sons. Considering his meager earnings, what he did was exemplary,” Mrs Ololo said.

One of her sons is a graphic designer based in Belgium while another is pursuing his master’s degree in South Africa.