This is a kind of rant and it is about shoes. The teachers at our local primary school are adamant about the students wearing shoes, but not just any shoes. The teachers demand that the students buy and wear imitation leather shoes. This plastic footwear is available at the twice-monthly cattle market here at Olbalbal. They are expensive and fall apart very quickly. The students lacking these “leather shoes” are sent home until they come up with that useless plastic footgear. During the rainy season, in which we find ourselves presently, the useful life of the simulated leather is a few days. The mud and wet paths destroy these bogus shoes in no time.
Traditionally, the Maasai wear shoes made from cast off car tires. The tire shoes are indestructible and last years. They are perfect footgear for slogging through the mud during the rainy season as well as long trips over the plains during the dry. These are the shoes that the students wear at home, herding the family cows and goats. Thorns don’t penetrate these tough shoes and they are ideal for every activity in the bush, including walking the many miles to school in muddy conditions.
But these great shoes, environmentally perfect, are forbidden. Out of a warped sense of “development” or “progress,” the students are not allowed to wear these shoes. They must find the money to buy the fake leather ones that last only a few days.