Gogo: what is this documentary about the oldest schoolgirl in the world?

Going to class for the first time in his life at over 90 years old is the challenge that Gogo has taken on. In his eponymous documentary, the director of On the way to school, films the lesson of courage of this Kenyan woman unlike any other.


At 94, Gogo joined her village school and became the oldest schoolgirl in the world. Mother of three children, midwife for 75 years, she now shares the school benches with teachers and students she gave birth to. Encouraged by her 54 great-grandchildren and the whole school, the dean of schoolgirls sets herself a challenge: to pass her end of primary exam and prove that there is no age limit to learn!


Pascal Plisson has been filming Africa for years. Between 1997 and 2007, he directed numerous documentaries on the nature of this continent, for channels such as Canal +, France 2, National Geographic and the BBC.

On the big screen, the director followed children from all over the world (Kenya, Morocco, India and Argentina) on their daily journeys to gain access to education. The result: the film On the way to school, which had more than 1.5 million admissions in 2013 before being crowned with the César for Best Documentary. The filmmaker returns this Wednesday with a feature film addressing again the theme of education in the world: Gogo.

This time, however, it is no longer to children that Pascal Plisson gives the floor but to a 94-year-old midwife: Priscilha Sitienei dit Gogo. It was through a friend who knew he was looking for “very strong human stories”That the filmmaker heard about a woman living in a remote part of Kenya who became the oldest schoolgirl in the world.

Gogo: what is this documentary about the oldest schoolgirl in the world?

The pact

Gogo and Pascal Plisson on the set


Gogo didn’t go to school by chance. Five years ago, she realized that her own great-granddaughters were out of school, because in Kenya they are more concerned with educating boys, and that outraged her. ‘Since it’s like that, she said, I’ll take you with me’“, says the director.

And to explain: “She joined the school in Ndalat, a few kilometers from her home, with six of her great-granddaughters. She had to fight to convince the school principal to accept her. She had met a lot of refusals. No one believed in his desire to learn to read and write.”And yet, for several years Gogo studied diligently with his young classmates.

When Pascal Plisson put his cameras in his classroom in 2018, Gogo was in fifth grade. But in addition to her thirst for learning, this woman born in 1923 who had been banned from school in her youth had given herself another mission through her challenge: “I want to tell all the children in the world, especially the girls, that school will be your strength, your wealth, so go for it. I pray to God that he will let me finish my studies, even if I am a hundred years old on the day of my certificate.

Gogo: what is this documentary about the oldest schoolgirl in the world?

The pact

Gogo and his great-granddaughter undergoing revisions

A message which, we hope, will reach as many young people as possible thanks to this documentary. “Gogo didn’t know what a movie was but she agreed as far as [il] could serve as an example and convince other little girls to go to school. Because Gogo wants to convince all parents to send their daughters to school. She beat the countryside a lot for this mission”, Recalls Pascal Plisson.


Endearing and determined woman, Gogo does not lack humor at the top of her 94 years. We take pleasure in following her course, while hoping that she manages to pass her exam, one of the challenges of the film.

But some sequences that take place outside the classroom are also very striking, such as this school trip to the Masai Mara which makes us discover breathtaking landscapes or this conversation between Gogo and the foreman in charge of building a new dormitory. for girls. A lively discussion that once again demonstrates the grandmother’s pugnacity.

We will also remember the kindness of the other students who never judge Gogo, but also the kindness of his great-granddaughter, Shopkoech, who helps him with his homework. As well as the accuracy of the teacher who, if she does everything to ensure that her student succeeds, does not hesitate to hitch her up when necessary!

On the way to school trailer:

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