In my experience, a lot of educational films turn out to be quite cheesy. Don’t get me wrong, I still love them—I’m a sucker for movies that glorify teaching. Go figure. A friend of mine talked me into going to see a movie at BYU’s International Cinema with the line, “It’s about educational reform in Africa.” Sold.
The First Grader is among the most holistic and meaningful educational films I’ve ever seen. The film is set in Kenya following its independence from Britain when the government has begun to offer “free education for all.” The featured first grader is in fact a man in his eighties who fought in the Mau Mau rebellion, pre-Kenyan independence. Maruge (our hero) and the devoted teacher championing his cause endure fierce opposition from parents and government authorities who don’t want an old man filling up a seat in the already crowded school. Never having learned to read as a youth, Maruge petitions for a chance to finally enrich his life with education. The movie depicts the beautiful relationships that develop between Maruge and his young classmates and with his teacher. While he is the one receiving the formal education, he has so much to teach those around him, and he does so in a very honest and inspiring way. In one of my favorite scenes, Maruge tells the children how he fought for freedom. They rally around him out in the schoolyard all shouting, “Freedom!”
So, for all you educational thinkers out there—this is a thought-provoking and emotionally inspiring/fulfilling film you might enjoy! Included below you’ll find the site for the movie, if you’re interested. (Scene 2 is the one I described above. Hence the title of this post.)