Wednesday, September 14, 2005

"Psst! Did you see this guy's teeth?"

That is what the kids in the elementary school would whisper to each other after seeing this guy. Enjoy!


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NEW YORK (Sept. 13) - Kimani Ng'ang'a waited more than eight decades for his first day of school. The Kenyan villager wants to make sure nobody else has to wait that long.

The 85-year-old man, billed as the world's oldest elementary school pupil, toured Manhattan to promote a global campaign urging assistance for an estimated 100 million children denied an education because of poverty.

Kimani only started his formal education in January 2004.

"Look what school has done for me so far," said Kimani, standing Tuesday in Battery Park with the Statue of Liberty behind him. "Here I am in New York."

As part of his visit, Kimani traveled around Manhattan in a yellow school bus to spread his message about education for needy children.

Kimani met outside the United Nations with Nane Annan, wife of U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan. He told her, "It would be good if all children of the world could go to school."

Annan agreed, saying, "That is the goal of the United Nations."

Some heads of state already were in New York for Wednesday's opening of a three-day U.N. summit.

At the U.N., Kimani delivered 100,000 paper cutout figures, representing those children kept out of school.

The figures were created by school children all over the world; each carries a written message of "Send my friend to school."

The program, along with Kimani's visit, was organized by the Global Campaign for Education - a coalition of agencies from more than 100 countries.

Kimani, a father of 15, was able to afford schooling only after Kenya's government dropped fees for primary schools. He came to the United States with his principal, Jane Obinchu, who also served as his interpreter.

"I love being in school," Kimani told reporters. "I always wanted to be a veterinary doctor, because I love animals. That is my goal."

Kimani uses two hearing aids and a cane. On school days, he walks about a half-mile to join his 100 fellow students at the local elementary school.

He is concentrating on math, science, English and his native Swahili. He specifically wants to learn how to read the Bible.

"You are never too old to learn," Kimani said. "At no time ever say, 'It's too late to learn,' not until the day you die."

AP-ES-09-13-05 2100EDT

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