Vol.: 17, #1
Osotwa Maasai Prep 2002:
We began the new school year of our one-year prep school program for Maasai girls and boys this week. Our English and Math program is aimed at preparing our Maasai young people for secondary and technical schools. Prying the girls from home has been as difficult as ever. This year, we have 12 Maasai girls and 11 Maasai boys. Our teachers are three, two young Maasai men and one young Maasai woman. All three are Maasai, graduates of our Osotwa Maasai Prep School and of Secondary school.
We continue are program of supporting Secondary Education for Maasai boys and girls:
In Secondary School, we have seven Maasai girls, two of whom have just begun their first year a few weeks ago. Nine girls are studying in technical school, learning animal husbandry, small farming methods and simple tailoring using a sewing machine.
We support ten Maasai boys in secondary school, with two beginning their first year this month. One of our boys has gotten his law degree and another is in his final year at the University in Dar es Salaam doing land management and environmental issues. Two more of my boys will begin studies at the University of Dar-es-Salaam next year. I don’t know yet what their majors will be.
Munene is about to give birth:
Munene, the pregnant schoolgirl is still with us here and is scheduled to give birth later this month. Until now, pregnant schoolgirls were simply sent home. The perception was that the pregnancy was their fault and they should be punished both at school and at home. In Maasai country, this situation involved added difficulties because for an uncircumcised girl to become pregnant was always considered great shame. There is the warning given to uncircumcised girls that, if they become pregnant, they will be tied to a tree and left for the hyenas. I feel sure that this warning was never implemented and only used to scare the children. Seven years ago a law was passed by parliament that mandated six-year jail sentences for the young men who made schoolgirls pregnant. This law has never been implemented to any degree because the school and family always protect the boy. A year ago, parliament began the process to pass a law that said a pregnant schoolgirl should not be expelled, but rather should have her child and return to school.
Here in the Ngorongoro area, since there has been the possibility of
a few girls going on to technical and secondary schools after primary school, getting a girl pregnant has been one of the ways of making it impossible for her to continue her education. Another widespread method is to bribe the head-teacher or local government official with a cow and her name would quietly be taken off the list of school children.
Our Education Program is making a difference:
In recent weeks, during the waged by the Maasai to retain cultivation here at Ngorongoro, it has been shown that a small aware and articulate group of men and women can make a difference. Mostly it is the men and women educated by Endulen mission, who have written the articles in the newspapers and led the delegations to see the president. These young Maasai people have succeeded in retaining for their people, the right to cultivate here in the Conservation area. It is my conviction that if the Maasai people are to retain their identity, they need to retain their water sources and grazing land, and to take an active role in making the decisions that affect every facet of their lives. This can only happen if Maasai men and women can sit, as equals, on the councils making decisions about these things. That is why we are educating Maasai boys and girls. I guess the percentage of women I am educating would be about one women in a couple of thousand among the population of the Ngorongoro Conservation area.
January 23, 2002
Lost in Fog….
The fog at Ngorongoro these days is dense. This is especially so in the early mornings, but at times it can last the whole day. We are in the midst of the rainy season. This is the time of rain, mist and fog in the highlands; Ngorongoro is about eight thousand feet. My morning treks to the villages are frequently filled with apprehension, since I literally have little idea of where I’m going to end up when I start out from my room at the school of Makorumba, not far from Ngorongoro Crater. Recently, my destination was a village in which I was to teach that day. I had been to the village once before, so had an idea of which paths to take. After an hour of walking, I realized I was hopelessly lost, although still on a clearly defined path. I couldn’t see more than a cow’s length in front of me, and the country was undulating hill country covered with elephant grass and stunted thorn bush. Realizing a path as clearly defined and as well used as the one I was on, must go somewhere and as likely as not to a Maasai village, I kept followed it for another three quarters of an hour. Then to my immense relief, since by that time I was very tired as well as very lost, I heard the lowing of a couple of cows and the voices of children just ahead. Presently out of the fog became visible the high circular log stockade of a Maasai village. Through the wide high doorway I could see the familiar squat rectangular shape of dung plastered Maasai houses dimly through the soupy fog. I knew right away that this was not the place I had set out for, but was very thankful to be there anyway. The people received me with a surprised welcome and a big gourd of curdled milk, both of which I was happy to get. I say a surprised welcome since I was a complete stranger to them. They set me on a new path in a slightly different direction and off I went again through the still dense fog. After about a half an hour, the village I was looking for loomed out of the murk. There I was received by the elder of the village and his numerous wives and children; they were very surprised to see me, saying that they thought only crazy Maasai ventured out in such weather. I was given a big tin mug of sweet tea and shared a heaping plated of fried meat and fat with the old man. Our conversation for the day centered on the story of the Good Samaritan. Needless to say I had a couple of good local examples to offer.
Till next month…