Nat Geo Movies

Photo: An elderly man sits with children in a classroom.

Photograph by Kerry Brown

The First Grader: The Story

In a small, remote, mountaintop 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 applicant causes astonishment when he knocks on the door of the school. He is Maruge (Oliver Litondo), an old Mau Mau veteran in his 80s, 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 at the education so long denied—even if it means sitting in a classroom alongside six-year-old children.

Moved by his passionate plea, head teacher Jane Obinchu (Naomie Harris) supports his struggle to gain admission, and together they face fierce opposition from parents and officials who don't want to waste a precious school place on such an old man.

Full of vitality and humor, the film explores the remarkable relationships Maruge builds with classmates some 80 years his junior. Through Maruge's journey, we are taken back to the shocking untold story of British colonial rule 50 years earlier, when Maruge fought for the freedom of his country and eventually ended up in the extreme and harsh conditions of the British detention camps.

The First Grader is a heartwarming and inspiring true story of one man's fight for what he believes is his right in order to overcome the burdens of his past. It is a triumphant testimony to the transforming force of education.

Share

Did You Know?

Proceeds from the sale of film tickets help further National Geographic’s nonprofit mission to increase global understanding through education, research, and conservation. Your support counts!

Learn More »

Find a Theater

The First Grader is playing internationally. Check our theater listings to find out where you can see it.

Theater Listings »

Watch the Trailer and Help Fund Literacy Education!

Each time The First Grader trailer is viewed on YouTube, Capella University will make a donation to three great literacy-education organizations.

Learn More »

Content feed temporarily not available.

For Educators

Find ideas for classroom discussion about the film, The First Grader.

Download the Educator's Guide (PDF) »

Did You Know?

Proceeds from the sale of film tickets help further National Geographic’s nonprofit mission to increase global understanding through education, research, and conservation. Your support counts!

Learn More »