On March 29, 2021, Sarah Obama, the grandmother of former President Obama’s family, passed away. At the time, she was 99 years old.
In her little rural Kogelo village, Mama Sarah, better known as the former president’s stepgrandmother, supported education for girls and orphans.
She passed away while receiving treatment at the Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Teaching and Referral Hospital in Kisumu, the third-largest city in Kenya, in the country’s west, according to her daughter Marsat Onyango.
She died this morning, I hear. Onyango told The Associated Press over the phone, “We are saddened.
Sheik Musa Ismail, a family spokesman, stated that “Mama was sick with normal diseases; she did not die of Covid-19,” adding that she had tested negative for the illness. She had been ill for a week, according to him, before being hospitalized.
President Barack Obama sent his family a message of sympathy.
The former president posted a picture of himself as a youngster with his grandmother on Twitter along with the statement: “My family and I am mourning the passing of our beloved grandmother, Sarah Ogwel Onyango Obama, fondly known to many as “Mama Sarah,” but known to us as “Dani” or Granny. We are grateful to recall her long and extraordinary life even though we shall miss her deeply.
“Mama Sarah’s passing is a terrible loss for our nation. We’ve lost a matriarch who kept the Obama family together and was a role model for family values. She was a strong, virtuous woman,” Kenyatta continued.
The matriarch of Kogelo village passed away, and Kisumu Governor Anyang Nyong’o offered his condolences to the community. He added that she will be remembered for her efforts to promote education and empower orphans.
He continued, “She was a humanitarian who donated money to pay for orphans’ school tuition.
President Obama’s father, Barack Obama, Sr., was reared by Sarah Obama, his grandfather’s second wife. The family belongs to Kenya’s Luo ethnic group.
She was adored by President Obama, who referred to her as “Granny” in his autobiography, “Dreams from My Father.” When he met her in 1988 while visiting his father’s birthplace, he recalled how their initial awkwardness as they struggled to communicate developed into a passionate relationship.
She was present during his first presidential inauguration in 2009. Later, Obama brought up his grandmother once more in a speech he gave to the UN General Assembly in September 2014.
For many years, Sarah Obama has taken care of orphans at her home. The Mama Sara Obama Foundation provided school supplies, uniforms, basic medical needs, and school fees to children who had lost their parents.
Even as an adult, she admitted to the Associated Press in 2014, letters would arrive but she couldn’t read them. She said she didn’t want her kids to grow up without an education. She made sure that every member of her family attended school as a result.
She remembered taking the president’s father’s bicycle six miles each way to school every day from the family’s small settlement of Kogelo to the bigger town of Ngiya to make sure he got the education she never did.
Sarah Obama said, “I love education,” because it teaches children “how to be self-sufficient,” especially girls who are sometimes denied the chance to go to school.
“If a woman gets an education, she will educate not only her family but the entire village,” she said.
In recognition of her efforts to advance education, she received the first Women’s Entrepreneurship Day Education Pioneer Award from the UN in 2014.