Vol. 20, #3
I am Narropil Siroyan, a Maasai woman of 22. My father married two wives and we are fourteen in my family. I am the oldest child of my mother who was the older wife till her death three years ago. As is usual among the Maasai people, elders are very reluctant to send their daughters to school, especially their elder daughters. My father was told that he must bring a child to school. We were just two children in the family at the time, so he took my little brother, who was much too small to start school. My brother was rejected because he was so small, and my father was told he much bring allow me to be enrolled in first grade. He refused and only under threat of imprisonment did he agree that I go to school. So in 1992 I began school and lived at the mission in Endulen. My mother arranged that I stay with Fr. Ned because the nearest school was a four round trip walk from our village in Olmisigio. I liked school and continued slowing acquiring the ability to read and write. Although I enjoyed school, I had little idea of the value of education.
When my father began to understand how much I enjoyed school, he took me to, “ilaibonok”, ritual experts to mix up my brain so that I wouldn’t understand what the teachers in school were saying. His idea was to make sure that I would not be chosen for secondary school which, in the eyes of the Maasai, is a fate worse than death for a Maasai girl. When I arrived in fifth grade I was circumcised and was promised to the man who was designated as my husband as is customary among the Maasai. I did not like that man at all, but he wanted to take me out of school and carry me off to his village. I went to my teachers and they were able to contact the government education people who threatened my father and designated husband with jail if they refused to let me finish my education. I returned to stay at the mission and attend the government school at Endulen. At the mission I met and made friends with many girls who were attending various secondary schools. During those conversations with other Maasai girls I developed a strong desire to continue my education. During those years my father continued to go to Ilaibonok, getting spells and medicine from them to block my education and force me to come home and be married. He slowly realized that the spells of the Ilaibonok were not having the desired effect. After that he cursed me many times and beat my mother whom he accused of encouraging me in my rebellion against him.
In 1998, when I was close to finishing primary school, my father redoubled his efforts to curse me and also told me that he was no longer my father and that I should go and find another father. He called my “husband” and told him to call together other young men and take me by force on the day I would finish primary school and the class seven examinations. A couple of my teachers heard about the plan and warned me. I went to Fr. Ned and told him. The day before the examination, October 10th in 1998, Fr. Ned took me to the police and we wrote out a report. The next day I went to school in fear and took the exam. After the exam, the guard sent by the education department to oversee the examination took me home. Early the next morning, Fr. Ned came to our village and took me directly to the Maasai Girls Lutheran Secondary school in Monduli some six hours drive from Ngorongoro. Unfortunately, there was no place there for me so we returned to Endulen and sent out application forms to various secondary schools. During that period I had to hide a lot in house of the matron of the girls at the mission. My father frequently came to curse me and have big arguments with the matron and Fr. Ned. Fortunately after only a few weeks we received word that there was room after all at Maasai Girls Secondary school in Monduli. Happily, I went to take the entrance exams. When I arrived at the school, I was taken to a classroom and wrote exams in English, Math and Kiswahili. A short time later, I received the news that I was accepted. I was overjoyed to be accepted into Maasai Girls Lutheran Secondary School, a school that has a high reputation here in Northern Tanzania. Beginning my freshman year of secondary school in 1999, I met my classmates. Many of them were Maasai girls who had, like me, arrived at secondary school only after overcoming the opposition of parents, brothers and “husbands.” I didn’t find secondary school easy, but I loved being there and I worked hard.
During leave times I had to stay at the mission because my father continued to work at getting me to leave school and be married. He was always telling me that education had no meaning. When I wouldn’t listen to him he would always get very angry. On the other hand, my mother was sympathetic to my desire to get an education, and always encouraging me. She often came to the mission during leave time to tell me not to give up.
After I finished Form IV, I taught at Osotua Prep School at the mission in Endulen while waiting for my Form IV results. That was a good time. I spent a lot of time talking things over with Maasai girls preparing for secondary school. I got a chance to share my strong feelings that we Maasai women have as much right to an education as men do. We talked a lot about our desires to be teachers, nurses, doctors and so forth.
When the Form IV results came out, I found myself accepted to return to “Maasai Girls” into Form IV. During Form IV and VI I took as many science courses as I could because I want to be a doctor. The studies were very difficult for me, but I studied hard and on the 4th of March, just three weeks ago I finished Form VI. Our graduation celebration will be on the 3erd of April. I hope to begin medical studies next January.
My advice to other Maasai girls is that they should study hard and not be afraid of parents or anybody else that wants to block their education. Girls have just as much ability as boys. Know too that when you are successful and your parents see that you will be of help to them, they will quickly change and be happy that you have an education and are able to help them. Never say “I am not able because I am a girl.” “Only boys can succeed.” That is just not true. The secret of succeeding for a girl is not be taken in by the sweet words and false promises of boys and even parents. Don’t take gifts from boys, brothers or anyone that wants to destroy your goals in life. Be satisfied with what you have, work hard and you will succeed.
Till next month…