Praise has poured in for Kimani Maruge, the world's oldest pupil, who gave a new meaning to education and inspired Kenyans and many others after he began primary school at the age of 84 and learned how to read the Bible - writes Fredrick Nzwili.
"It is very encouraging that he went to school to learn how to read the Bible. He has set an example that will be remembered worldwide," the Rev David Gathunju, moderator of the Presbyterian Church of East Africa, told Ecumenical News International.
Maruge died on 14 August 2009 as a result of stomach cancer. He became famous in 2003, when, despite his advanced age, he enrolled at the Kapkenduiywa Primary School in Eldoret, western Kenya. The Guinness Book of Records in 2004 listed him as the world's oldest pupil.
"There are many people who cannot read or write; the government should know this and make education for all people compulsory, since knowledge is power," said Gathanju in his ENI interview on 17 August.
The Rev Paulino Mondo from the Roman Catholic parish at Kariobangi administered the last rites for Maruge at the Nyumba ya Wazee [home for the elderly], at St Joseph's Day Care Centre, to the east of Nairobi. The Red Cross brought Maruge to the centre, which the Franciscan Missionary Sisters run, after he had been displaced by violence that erupted near his home area after the bitterly disputed December 2007 elections in Kenya.
"He said he wished to die here," Mondo told journalists. In May 2009, the priest baptised Maruge, according to his wishes, with the name Stephen at the church attached to the home.
Maruge inspired a network of internet fans who set up a social networking site in his name at facebook.com. Here, they debated education and religious issues. By the time Maruge died, the network had 4771 members.
"Mzee Maruge has died as a professor of theology because his passion was to know how to read the Bible, and also as an educator, who wished change in our country," said Wilfram Simati on Maruge's facebook page.
[With acknowledgements to ENI. Ecumenical News International is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches and the Conference of European Churches.]