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September 2009

Endulen Diary
Vol. 24, #9
September, 2009

Maria Meing’oru off to Teacher Training College

Maria Meing’oru, one of my Maasai girls, has after completing two years of junior college, has will now begin her training as a teacher. Maria has always been interested in teaching and regularly helps other Maasai children who fall behind in their studies. She will now prepare for life as a primary school teacher. Places in these programs are more and more competitive and it has been a long year of writing applications and interviews. Success at last…Maria left this week to begin her studies. We need Maasai teachers in our schools. Having grown up in Maasai country, they will understand and be sympathetic to the particular problems experienced by Maasai young people.

Elephant kills child

There is a safari lodge not far from Endulen on the edge of the Serengeti. An old elephant, mostly harmless can usually be found hanging around offering great photo ops to the tourists. A week ago, at a nearby Maasai village, the women were sitting together outside the village enjoying a brief respite from their daily treks for water and firewood. While they gossiped, laughed together and sewed their beadwork, the small children were inside the boma playing and looking after the tiny goats. Suddenly the old elephant was seen lumbering toward the village at a great rate. The women called the children to them, but one child of about eight years was frozen to the spot in the center of the village in fright and shock. The women and other children watched in horror as the elephant entered the village, reached the child and toss him aside with his trunk; then continue out a gate on the other side of the village. The child died on the spot. His head was smashed.

Graduation day rethought.

Graduations at secondary schools and even at primary school have become a source of division and bad feelings rather than a day of happiness and celebration. These days some parents bring many garlands to put around their children’s necks and elaborately prepared food and gifts. Some even bring cakes to graduation. At the same time many children without wealthy parents are left with nothing. Some parents do not even show up for graduation because they feel shame at not having the wherewithal to bring food and gifts. They are humiliated and stay away from the graduation. One can imagine how miserable their children feel. Many Maasai feel that food and gifts should wait till the child arrives home. At home a celebration of whatever magnitude given the resources of the parents would be appropriate. At the school graduation, on the other hand, all the children should be treated equally.

Efforts of the women of our area seem to have fizzled.

For the past few weeks, numbers of Maasai women have been going around all the villages collecting contributions to send a delegation the president. They wanted to discuss the ban on cultivation and the implications it will have for their families. It seems that the men remained pretty much on the sidelines during these efforts. Finally, the women took the funds that they had gathered to Birikaa, the Maasai ritual expert based at Esirua near Endulen. Since the women went to Birika for council nothing further has been heard. It is unclear what will happen now.

Village of Endulen chooses new leaders.

Allegedly there has been a lot of corruption and vote rigging during our village elections. The gentlemen that has held the top post for five years does not want to step down. Many people here are dismayed at the stuff going on. The contenders are all Maasai and in fact of the same age group. Any kind of age group unity has fallen by the wayside during the struggles to be elected or reelected. The various communities like that of the hospital and the church have broken into factions that threaten to breed long term animosity. It is alleged that the normal help give by the village now is being distributed on the basis of loyalty at the poles. I guess these kinds of things are pretty normal in politics the world over, but difficult to accept when they divide even families in your own community.

Conservation authorities send a clear message.

Representatives of Ngorongoro Conservation have begun to travel around to the Maasai villages. They are measuring the cultivation that has taken place in the past and take a clear message to the people. Cultivation is no longer an option within the conservation area of Ngorongoro.

The ninth year, a year of hunger.

The local Maasai say that every ninth year brings an especially difficult time when there is hunger and often cattle disease. Elephants, buffalo and every kind of antelope suffer also. This is born out in the behavior of the elephants. Everywhere trees that in normal times escape the notice of the great iloonkaik, the ones of the arms (trunks) are smashed and plundered of their moisture and bark. The ribs of Maasai cattle are more and more prominent and the herds are being driven further and further to find forage. The Maasai of this area are saying that the cattle have reached the point of emancipation that they can no longer be sold.

Malaigwanani, Traditional Leaders.

It is true that traditional leaders are people with great influence. They are people that the Maasai depend on to take leadership in resolving quarrels and disputes among age group members and when fighting takes place between age groups. These traditional leaders are the first ones that the educated Maasai turn to when looking for heavy hitters to back up their claims in disputes that come before local tribunals. In times past, these spokesmen of the Maasai would look for the truth in a situation and try to resolve it in a just way for all involved. Now more often than not, they are ready to take the side of the one who is able to give them the best incentive in the way of a gift. These days, possession of the black rungu of the laigwanani is less a sign of justice and peace and more just another tool of the wealthy to get their way.

Till next month,
Ned

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