The First Grader

Synopsis: Set in a mountain village in Kenya the film tells the remarkable true and uplifting story of a proud old Mau Mau veteran who is determined to seize his last chance to learn to read and write - and so ends up joining a class alongside six year-olds. Together he and his young teacher face fierce resistance, but ultimately they win through - and also find a new way of overcoming the burdens of the colonial past.
Director(s): Justin Chadwick
Production: National Geographic Entertainment
  17 wins & 12 nominations.
Rotten Tomatoes:
103 min

My people, my people.

Now, the new government

has announced

free education for all.

All they want is for you to turn up

with a birth certificate.

A government that keeps its promise?


My son needs to be educated.

Kamau Chege,

Kamau Chege. Chege!

Teacher Jane, Teacher Jane!

Come on, he's asking for you.


Teacher Katherine!

Teacher Katherine, can you come?

OK, give me a moment, please.

This is not a birth certificate.

Mama, you are not the first.

May I help you, mzee?

This is a primary school.

Mzee, they meant children, not adults.

No. I heard on the radio,

with my own ears.

They said everybody.

We have 200 students

and only 50 desks. Look at this.

We can't waste them on an old man

with one foot in the grave.

Mzee, where are your exercise books?

You need two,

and one HB pencil, sharp,

with a rubber on one end.

Those are the regulations.

Pole, mzee. Pole.

Good morning, boys and girls.

Good morning, madam!

- How are you?

- Fine, thank you, madam!

- How do you do?

- How do you do, madam?

I do very well, thank you.

I am so excited to have you here

all in my classroom.

Welcome. Karibuni.

Sit down, please.

Thank you, madam.

Now, I know that some of you

may be a little nervous,

but there's nothing to be afraid of.

Learning is about having fun,

so we are all here to have fun.

- Si ndiyo?

- Yes.

Alright, let me check.

Has everybody got their books?

- Yes!

- Very good!

- And has everybody got their pencils?

- Yes!

- OK. Good... I heard a few noes.

- Who said no?

OK, well, Francis, can you give out

some pencils, please?


Paris and Pauline,

come to the front, please.

So, everyone, tomorrow,

your books and your pencils.

- Yes.

- OK, very good, very good.

Sorry, sorry, excuse me.

Go home, mzee.

I can see you've had a hard life.

Go home and rest in peace.

Rest in peace?

I'm not dead.

Look, mzee...

My name is Kimani Ng'ang'a Maruge.

Well, Kimani Ng'ang'a Maruge,

we cannot accept anyone

without a school uniform,

and that means school shoes too.

And you do not have money

for such things.


Mzee, why does someone as old as you

want to go to school?

I want to learn to read.

We've got too many pupils already.

I wish I could help you.

I'm sorry. Pole.

Alright, here we are.

- OK, asante sana.

- Asante.

Goodbye, Teacher.

You know that old man

I told you about?

He came back again.

I hope you did not let him in.

The poor old boy might be senile.

Why don't you stick to battles

you can win, hm?

Like finding more desks.

How was your week?

The Swedish company

hasn't paid me the consulting fee.

The government job is starting to sound

very appealing.

Except it had to be full time

in Nairobi,

and then we'd never

see each other at all.

Not if you came to Nairobi.

We'll live in a big house, make babies.

Have a little bunch of Obinchus.

Charles, I can't.

The school needs me.

What about me?

You've got me.

We've got five children

to a desk here, sir.

There are children sitting on the floor.

They can't work like this, Mr. Kipruto.

You need a form for every single

new child, in triplicate?

No, you can't be serious. I don't

have time to do that, Mr. Kipruto.

Could you not just take my word for it?

Yes, I know, regulations.

Good day to you too, Mr. Kipruto.

What am I to do, Alfred?

Our esteemed superintendent has made

one of his executive decisions.

You've got to see this.


You don't give up easily,

do you, Maruge?

You can't fall for this.

You'll be asking for trouble

with the authorities.

You know he's right, Maruge?

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Ann Peacock


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Submitted on August 05, 2018

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    "The First Grader" STANDS4 LLC, 2021. Web. 24 Sep. 2021. <>.

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