Vol. 16 #5
Sangau still with us:
The young boy I talked about a couple of months ago is still with us. You will remember that he and his father came to Endulen with donkeys to buy corn. They came from OldoinyoGoll, an area on the Eastern edge of the Serengeti, some five days trek from Endulen. Sangau was blamed for the loss of a donkey that ran away and wasn’t found. In anger, his father left him and, a couple of days later he turned up here at “Osotwa” looking for something to eat. After waiting a month to see if his dad would show up, I enrolled him in the local primary school. I guess maybe we’ll see his folks when they run out of food at OldoinyoGoll and come looking for corn again.
Mike Jemmett, the Mennonite volunteer working with our Maasai Education program writes about the new secondary school opening a few miles from us. Mike finishes his contract at the end of this year and will be returning to Canada. Mike has done a fine job. The Mennonite organization is advertising for a replacement for him. The Mennonites and I are hopeful that a woman or a married couple will respond, who will be able to work closely with the girls. Developing leadership among Maasai women is our priority here. Although, because of resistance to the education of women on the part of the elders, it continues to be a struggle to pry girls loose to continue their education. The elders are looking for instant gratification in the form of the bride price of cows as soon as a girl reaches twelve or thirteen years old.
There used to be a rutted track that wound about crumbling rocks and thorn-spiked acacia trees; that dipped into two shaded crystal streams where Maasai girls and women quietly rinsed the dust from arms and legs, and warriors paused to chat; a track that rose and dissipated into the “dry acacia bush land” of classic African bush. It is no more.
A creaky bulldozer, A thunderous steamroller and a convoy of dented blue dump trucks have been descending like a column of army ants upon that meandering track, straightening, leveling, widening, “civilizing” its length of almost six kilometers, over three miles. However, now the dust is settling, the streams clearing, the air growing still once more.
These days of transition between the wet and dry seasons, from the rising of the morning mist to the casting of the cool, evening shadows, a spear of light strikes the eyes of our Osotwa students. It is the sun dancing along the rooftops of corrugated aluminum under which mostly Maasai youth will pursue higher education at the only secondary school in this part of Maasai country. It is the first in the Ngorongoro Conservation area.
Notice was posted for the sixty government-selected students to arrive, and still they are gradually trickling in. Among those present is one of our boys, plucked and transplanted; and two of our girls. The number at the new school currently numbers thirteen boys and one girl.
So, we Osotwans tramped out to visit our alumnus and scope out the new digs. Along the route, we practiced as much English as possible, but the students’ enthusiasm and anticipation often bubbled over into Maasai and Swahili.
On arrival, we were treated to a royal tour: the terrazzo floor is slick, the plaster smooth, the paintwork sharp, the desks varnished, the windows intact, the night lighting bright, the dormitories spacious, the taps run, the toilets flush, the cafeteria is functional and serving the first arrivals. By local standards, it is palatial.
The other reality is that the school should have opened in January of 2000, and we are now one-third the way through the current academic year. Meanwhile they await the balance of the inaugural class. No one can predict just when the actual teaching will begin. For now, the students are engaged in janitorial and landscaping tasks, and teachers stamping new texts and organizing their appointed lives. Our tour guide insists, however, that they will complete the full curriculum by year’s end.
In 1999, competing Osotwa student teams moved sixteen boulders, perhaps up to 75lbs/35kg from far and wide to be fashioned into a huge directional compass and used as a forum for student-initiated discussions. The day after our trek was the last Friday of the month, at the end of which we regularly gather and sit around on the compass boulders.
Our student reactions to the high school:
“The windows are high so you can’t look out. All you see are treetops and sky.”
“I like the quiet. No shops, no children. You can study better.”
“It’s big. You can do science in the laboratory.”
“I like the toilets…no smell.”
“They have a generator and a pump. Students will not have to carry water from the stream… more time for rest and study.”
“The food smells good.” (Boiled corn flour is the staple diet).
“If I sleep on the top bunk, I will have a dream and fall off!”
Sometimes the dream alone is worth the risk of falling off. The old rutted track is no more, but perhaps Maasai students will dream of forging their own paths linking the past to a secure future.
Till next month… Ned