Oldest school students show it’s never too late to learn

Teachers and learning

You’re never too old old to learn. Rosa Salgado (pictured above) proved that when she made headlines in the United States earlier this month by graduating from college at the ripe old age of 79.

She graduated with honours from Miami Dade College, alongside two of her grandchildren. Rosa, who spoke only a few words of English when she moved to the US from Colombia 20 years ago, said she wanted to inspire others to learn. She added: “My grandchildren, my family, they’ve grown up watching my activity and they are going to learn and fight in life and overcome obstacles.”

But Rosa is not alone in learning at an advanced age. Here’s a look at some people who started their education late in life and inspired thousands to go to school or take up further education.


At the age of 102, she attended her first ever school class. Ma never had the chance to go to school after starting work in a cotton mill at only 13.

She saw seven of her nine children go on to attend university and always dreamed of going to school herself.

In 2010 – after revealing her lifelong ambition in a newspaper interview – she went to her first class at Weshan Road Elementary School, armed with a magnifying glass.


Believed to be the world’s oldest primary school student, she enrolled in Kenya’s Rift Valley five years ago aged 85 and is now in grade four. She wants to learn how to read and write like the rest of her classmates, who call her “Grandmother”.

Priscilla, who was a midwife for 65 years, goes to Leaders Vision Preparatory School with six of her great-great-grandchildren.

She told the BBC: “I see children who are living hopelessly, children who are lost. I want them to see my in school. I want to inspire them.”


Google created a special doodle on its Kenya page in January 2015 to mark the 11th anniversary of Kimani Maruge going to primary school for the first time at the age of 84.

At the time he was recognised by the Guinness Book of World Records as the oldest person to start elementary education. He wore the Kapkenduiywo Primary School uniform of blue blazer and shorts and was elected head boy.

Google called him “an extraordinary Kenyan whose passion for education throughout his life shines as a beacon worldwide on the importance of lifelong learning”. His story inspired the film The First Grader. Kimani died in 2009.


At the age of 99, he graduated from a three-year degree at Presbyterian University College’s business school in 2010. 

The second World War veteran told CNN: “Education has no end. As far as your brain can work all right, your eyes can see all right and your ears can hear all right, if you go to school you can learn.”

He encouraged fellow graduates to stay in Ghana and resist the lure of higher salaries in other countries.


He became the world’s oldest graduate when he completed a law degree aged 91 and then beat his own record when he received his masters in 2012 at the age of 97

The former dentist from New South Wales had 12 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.

Allan said: “It is never too late to expand your mind, make new friends and challenge yourself to achieve something worthwhile.”


Aged 75, he became the country’s oldest A-level student when he went back to school to study several subjects.

Philip took time off from running a small business in 2009 and enrolled at the Universal School of Adult Literacy in Masaka.

He wanted to get A-levels in subjects including history and divinity to help him take a university degree in microfinance management.

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