AN 'AHA' MOMENT: Seeing Pastoralist Education Through New Eyes
By Nelson Gichuhi, Research Assistant
June 29, 2012
On a recent trip to the Masai Mara, I got a chance to view the wilderbeast migration route across the Masai Mara River. These animals are forced to migrate in search of pasture from the Serengeti in Tanzania to the Maasai Mara in Kenya. The migration route is however full of challenges, the most obvious being presence of crocodiles that lie in the Maasai Mara River awaiting an easy catch.
I found myself thinking about the pastoralist communities, who just like the wilderbeasts, move around with their livestock in search of pasture. For these communities, livestock is a source of livelihood as well as a form of wealth and thus they guide and guard them with their lives.
It’s mostly the children who take on the responsibility of looking after these animals. Therefore whenever the community moves, the children also have to move thus impacting their schooling patterns. Despite the introduction of free primary education (FPE) in Kenya, pastoralist communities such as these do not benefit simply because of their lifestyle. In 2006 the National Gross Enrolment Rate increased to 107.4% but that of the nomadic pastoralist areas remained below 50% with some districts recording as low as 20.6% (Wajir District).
The National Commission for Nomadic Education in Kenya (NACONEK) under the Ministry of Education established in 2010 was formed to address this situation. Several steps have been taken including building of boarding schools where the school going pupils can stay and continue with their education as their families move around. Another initiative has been in-service teacher training to enrich teachers’ knowledge on nomadic lifestyle and equip them with such skills as multi-grade teaching.
I think these policy measures to increase enrolment in these communities are a good starting point. However there also needs to be a great deal of sensitization on the value of education. Educated pastoralists should be encouraged to champion schooling amongst their communities.
On a lighter note, if the hefty nomadic allowances to teachers who move around with these communities are not enough, just tell them about the beautiful scenery and daily wildlife experience, and even I will want to be in their shoes.