Vol. 19, #12
NOTHING EVER COMES EASY…
My name is Naado Loonjumuya Shangai, and my baptismal name is Maggie. I was born 28 years ago at Irbatiti near Endulen. I am the last born of my mother’s five children, three boys and two girls. My father was a polygamist with eight wives; my mother was the third wife. It was difficult for our father to take responsibility for all of us as a father. So it was our mother’s responsibility to look after us when we are sick, to take us to hospital, and provide us with clothing and our other needs.
When a Maasai girl grows up, her father will be proud because there is cattle and other things ahead in the way of bride price. Thinking of my childhood reminds me to sit and narrate this story to somebody special who real meant a lot to my life. When I was about 5-6 yrs, the age when children are chosen for school, the government officers came around to write down the names of children for school. My mother was always praying that God would protect me so that I would not be taken to school. She was hoping that I would stay home to help her with the chores, since my elder sister was already married when I was four. I didn’t ever imagine during my childhood that one day I would see my dreams for education realized. I was always dreaming of being in school, and thinking about what school life would be like. In our Maasai tradition the right of ladies is only to be married and to take care of children and animals. That is the traditional meaning of education for the Maasai. Education among us is for what we’ll do in life, i.e. to be mothers and to take care of our families. I can’t blame that meaning of Education. Education in Maasai land is different from education in our Nation and in the world
Given this difference between Maasai education and Nation education, there is no support from parents for education outside the Maasai way of life. When I was six years old I was taken by the government people to the primary school to see if I would be written down to enter school. Since, like all parents at that time, neither my mother nor my father knew how old I was, registration in those days involved stretching one’s arm over the top of the head to see if one could touch the opposite ear. If you could easily touch your ear, you were judged to be seven years old and ready for school. If you were able to reach your opposite ear over your head, your parents have no excuse not to send you to school. In other tribes education is one of the foundations of a firm future. This is why parents take the education of their children seriously right from an early age. Thanks God that I got a chance at Endulen primary school to start first grade (standard 1), although I couldn’t really reach across my head to my other ear, I cheated a little and stretched my arm to touch my other ear and get written down for school.
When I was in third grade, my parents began to argue with each other about my school attendance. My mother was unhappy because she saw that I was too young to walk 6 kilometers every day to school, especially during the rains and with the danger of meeting wild animals along the way. My father was happy that I continue in school as a punishment for my mother because they were not getting along. In our tribe, if the father has a falling out with his wife, either he will slaughter or sell a big cow of that women or send one of her beloved child to school so depriving her of the help of that child for chores at home. This is like punishment. That is why I redoubled my efforts in my studies, to make sure that this punishment will turn out to my mother’s benefit. During primary school, I was among the best students. I learned to read and write and also tried to study small English books.
In 1989 I went to Endulen Mission to see the missionary, Fr. Ned. I told him that I wanted to go to high school but I didn’t have any idea about the processes of getting there. It was difficult for him at that time because in the village ladies who go on to secondary school are seen as lost by their parents. When a girl went to secondary school, she was treated as an outcast by the family. When I was near to go to secondary school, my friends ran away from me, because I am going to be “emeeki” (non-Maasai.) I tried to tell everyone that education will not change my love for them and my tribe, but no body believed me.
MY LONG JOURNEY…
Early one morning my mother was milking and I was standing nearby, I saw father Ned and Teacher Kasoe coming from far away. My elder brother met them and Fr. Ned showed him the letter from District education office. The letter said that I was chosen to go to secondary school. My elder brother told me to hide in the tall grass. I did this because if I refused, it would be a bitter day for me and I might be beaten. I went to hide near the road that these people would use to return to the village of Endulen. When my brothers told them that I was not around, I just jump up to show my self. I decided that if I have to die, let me die because I want to go to school.
I was enrolled at Simanjiro Animal husbandry which is a vocation school. I was not very happy at Simanjiro because my intention was to join secondary school. I told Fr. Ned about my feeling; he agreed and found me a school near Arusha town, Purka Secondary School. I was very happy there although the school is a day school so it was difficult to get a place to stay. The place found for me to stay was at Sanuari, many miles from Purka School. It was a very long walk back and forth to school each day. My parents had no part in any of this. It was very painful during that time being so young and in conflict with my parents. Now I realize the cost of ignorance to our people and benefits of education. They don’t think that education is very expensive and they believe that there is no advantage to education. One day when I was in form three my brothers asked me to explain to them which is better, “staying at home and getting married” or “getting an education.” It was a difficult question and I was frightened that they would be angry at my answer. I told them that “my marriage can bring them three or four cows that can die even before one year, but my education is like having money in the bank that we can eat from for many years. Also a professional person can help one’s family for many many years.” It was a long discussion and in the end they told me to say that “I don’t like school” because that is the only way that they can stop my studies and bring me home to be married. I didn’t say that because myself I like school. I finished Form four. After that I went to Huruma Nursing School and graduated from the four year program as a Register nurse and Midwife. I am now working and walking among my Maasai people at the Rehabilitation centre for handicapped in Maasailand at Monduli. My mother and brothers now see what a great help I am to them and now are happy that I am educated.
Thank you very much for reading my story. I decided to call it “Nothing ever comes easy” My story is dedicated to young girls in our Maasai tribe. With some luck and a lot of self courage, they can succeed as I did in my safari of educational adventure. Thanks God for Fr. Ned and all the other people who helped me along the way.
The day before Christmas, the mother of one of my students went to draw water at the spring below Endulen and near her Maasai village. She was attacked by a leopard and badly clawed on her face and both arms and hands. Fortunately the leopard was startled by other women coming to draw water and disappeared into the bush. The woman survived and is recovering in the hospital.
Till next month…