During my visit in Masaai Land I spent quite a lot of time at the Oltanki Primary School where Mama Florence is a head teacher. I also did some research because my aim is to help them write a proposal in order to get donors for starting up a girls’ boarding school. The Maasai culture and lifestyle is fascinating, but the traditions also brings forth a lot of challenges and oppression for girls and women in the Maasai communities. If the school could turn into a boarding school for girls, it could decrease and even eliminate some of the challenges that these girls are facing as Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), getting married off at early ages (from 8 years and up), early pregnancies and child labour. The Maasai people are traditionally nomads, which mean that when necessary, they will move in order to search for better pastures and water for their cattle and herds. Most of the times the children will have to come with the parents and they will miss out on their education.
In the specific area I visited there was currently a drought due to lack of good rains since April. A big part of the crops that was planted had dried out because of the drought, which resulted in that so many people struggled both with water and food. People walked half a day and sometimes even whole days to search for water and many schools were unable to make lunch for the children because there was no water to cook with. The Oltanki Primary School had been donated reserve tanks and waters so they were fortunate enough to keep cooking lunch for the pupils (consisted of corn and beans). The fields of vegetables and corn they had planted did not survive the drought though. Many children also walk long distances both in the morning and in the evenings to get to and from school, sometimes for an hour each way, and they might not either get breakfast or supper at home due to poverty. So if the school would be able to start a boarding school it would also mean that the pupils would be provided for the meals they need every day.
The school was also in need for more and better class rooms. Just two out of seven were permanent ones. The preschool group consisted of 75 children and the only classroom for them was not big enough so they had to either have classes outside or use the nearby church building.
The teachers at Oltanki Primary School had such a heart for their pupils. There was one teacher who especially moved me with her way of teaching the pupils with so much passion and love – Mama Agnes. She was responsible for the second grade and I got to participate in one of her Swahili classes. After every time one of the pupils answered correctly on a question (included me), the whole class replied with an encouraging jingle. It made me feel so happy. Mama Agnes explained for me that probably at least 10 out of her 38 pupils in that grade had special needs, as she called it. She discreetly pointed out one of the boys who probably was three years older than he was supposed to be attending second grade. He was one of them. She pointed out another boy who was standing beside the blackboard, really struggling to complete the task that was given him. Mama Agnes explained that she always tries to get these specific children up to the blackboard because then she gets a better opportunity to supervise them. Right there I wished I had money enough to pay for a couple of assistant teacher to make sure that the teacher had the resources they needed in order to give the pupils a good and sufficient education.
I really enjoyed being in Mama Agnes class and I had so much respect for her. And just being in the school and trying to understand the issues and challenges they were facing humbled me. I hope I will be able to help them write a proposal so they can open up a boarding school for girls. I believe education is the key to change the future for these young girls and empower them to grow up to be rivals of leadership in the community.