On March 29, 2021, Mama Sarah Obama, the step-grandmother of former President Obama, passed away at the age of 99. She was a well-known advocate for education in her rural Kogelo hamlet, particularly for girls and orphans. Mama Sarah died around 4 a.m. local time while receiving treatment at the Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Teaching and Referral Hospital in Kisumu, the third-largest city in Kenya. According to her daughter Marsat Onyango, Mama Sarah had been sick for a week before being admitted to the hospital. The family spokesperson, Sheik Musa Ismail, confirmed that she did not die of Covid-19, as she had tested negative for the illness.
My family and I are mourning the loss of our beloved grandmother, Sarah Ogwel Onyango Obama, affectionately known to many as “Mama Sarah” but known to us as “Dani” or Granny. We will miss her dearly, but we’ll celebrate with gratitude her long and remarkable life. pic.twitter.com/avDY4f1PVu
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) March 29, 2021
Former President Obama expressed his condolences to his family and tweeted a photo of himself as a child with his grandmother, whom he referred to as “Dani” or Granny. Mama Sarah’s passing was also mourned by Kenyan President Kenyatta and Kisumu Governor Anyang Nyong’o, who praised her philanthropic work in promoting education and supporting orphans.
Mama Sarah, who was the second wife of President Obama’s grandfather and raised his father, Barack Obama, Sr., was an important figure in the Obama family and the Luo ethnic group of Kenya. She founded the Mama Sara Obama Foundation, which helped orphans by providing them with school supplies, uniforms, medical care, and school fees. Mama Sarah was also recognized for her work in education by the United Nations, which awarded her the Women’s Entrepreneurship Day Education Pioneer Award in 2014.
Mama Sarah’s commitment to education stemmed from her own experience of being denied an education. She rode six miles on her husband’s bicycle every day to attend school and was determined to ensure that all of her family’s children received an education. Mama Sarah believed that education was the key to empowering girls and transforming entire communities.