Wednesday, June 8, 2011

First Grader.

In a small, remote mountain top primary school in the Kenyan bush, hundreds of children are jostling for a chance for the free education newly promised by the Kenyan government. One new applicant causes astonishment when he knocks on the door of the school. He is Maruge (Oliver Litondo), an old Mau Mau veteran in his eighties, who is desperate to learn to read at this late stage of his life. He fought for the liberation of his country and now feels he must have the chance of an education so long denied - even if it means sitting in a classroom alongside six-year-olds.
January of this year the IMF approved a $508.7 million financing agreement to back Kenya’s economic program, as the country embarks on reforms arising from the implementation of its new constitution ratified in August 2010. The program will help Kenya strengthen its external position, as well as fiscally support the country's new education initiatives.

Featured at the Telluride International Film Festval 2010 and the Toronto International Film Festval 2010; Directed by Justin Chadwick, the Kenyan focused film The First Grader made its US debut in May via National Geographic Entertainment.

Starring Oliver Litondo and Naomie Harris. The latter a British beauty in the running to be the next Bond girl and recently featured in Vanity Fair where her acting credentials and Cambridge degree are deservingly lauded. In the film Harris portrays a teacher in Kenya who advocates for the right of an amicable 84-year-old villager (Litondo) to be educated. Not the expected human rights protest? A progressive one.

It is refreshing to have an international light shone on developing African nations that is not forlorn and ripe with distress

Harris shares the sentiment.
“At the start I was thinking, Oh, I’m going to work with these really poor children, and I’m going to be so affected by the fact that they have so little, when we in the West have so much. Actually, what I was struck by was they have so much, and we have so little. They have a strong sense of family, a strong sense of community—a real sense of belonging. I was incredibly touched by that (Vanity Fair).”

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