Pastoralists in Kajiado see light, back education of their children

Children attend Community-Based Education (CBE) in Kajiado West Sub County, Kajiado County. [Nanjinia Wamuswa, Standard]

More than 20 years since his children started attending school, Kutatoi Keloi had never taken an interest in how they progressed with their education.

After all, as an elder, culture did not allow him to interact closely with his children, especially girls. After paying school fees, the rest was for his 14 children to attend school, learn and determine their future.

“My responsibility was just to pay school fees for them to attend school and learn through guidance of their teachers, while at home, older siblings were there to assist them with their homework,” Keloi begins.

On a recent visit, Keloi was among a group of Maasai, both men and women-sitting on chairs and desks under a huge tree, keenly listening as a facilitator Harryzon Kiok takes them through Parental Engagement and Empowerment (PE&E) programme, at Oloiri ECDE Centre located in Shompole, Kajiado West sub-county in Kajiado county.

Sponsored by Grassroots Nest for Innovation and Change (GRiC), the programme empowers members of the community to understand the importance of getting involved in the education of their children.

“The current Competence Based Curriculum (CBC) system calls for parents’ involvement in the learning activities of their children. Unfortunately, this cannot happen in pastoralist community here because 99 per cent of parents are illiterate,” he explains.

Through a manual developed by GRiC, parents learn the basics of proper parenting, understanding their children, engaging with teachers and how to effectively support learning at home, in a Community-Based Education (CBE) program they also empower teachers on how to create a non-intimidating school environment that allows holistic learning and engagement with parents.

Through these sessions, Keloi realised the importance of being at the centre of his children’s education three years ago. He shares: “I learned a lot. Apart from paying school fees, l am fully involved in their school life as l provide learning materials for my children such as textbooks, pencils, charts with alphabetical letters, maps, and animals and attend school meetings whenever invited.”

Florence Nyaga, Executive Director GRiC says the focus of their education intervention is bringing together all key players required to create an enabling learning environment.

For a child to succeed, parents, teachers and the community must work in synergy and complement each other’s efforts. Yet, in this value chain, parents are illiterate and neglected, despite the huge role they are supposed to play for a child to succeed in life.

At a stakeholders’ write shop including the Ministry of Education, GRiC developed a manual, very practical, showing reality on the ground and the intervention required, that grassroots organisations have used to train the community.

Nyaga explains: “Our calling is education because it is social justice, and every child, irrespective of where they come from has a right to. But in reality, that is not the case with pastoralists. Instead of education being an equalizer, it's actually perpetuating inequality.”

Over three years later, Nyaga is happy with the progress and benefits are evident.

She explains: “Parents are telling us, they made a mistake abdicating their role to teachers. I met a man who confessed that culture did not allow him to move closer to his daughter. Our intervention has changed all this. In fact, today he buys sanitary towels for his daughters. It is a clear demonstration that our people are not resistant to change. It is how it's delivered.”

Hellen Tulito lauds the programme as a godsend saying that it has exposed pastoralists to education matters. Initially, she never allowed her children a good time to study, because once at home, their duty was to assist their parents in doing domestic chores.

This has changed, “We live in Manyatta that has no electricity but together with my husband, Robert Tulito, we bought solar lamps for our children to use to study. We also ensure they have a conducive environment. We check their assignment every day, ensuring it is done well and completed.”

Moses Nterere, head teacher at Oloiri Pre-School, says that through the programme, parents are very supportive and almost 100 per cent attend school meetings when called, including men who rarely attended school meetings before.

“Lately, enrolment has increased in the school, as the community realises the importance of education. The organisation regularly distributes stationery for learners and teaching materials for teachers to primary schools in the area, which facilitate smooth learning for even the less privileged,” he says.

Inspired by the empowerment, parents organize their children into groups and learn through a Community-Based Education (CBE) program, every day after school. They call it Manyatta learning.

It is part of GRiC parental engagement strategies that leverage existing family and community structures, extending learning beyond the confines of the classrooms.

“This includes leveraging on technology, peer-to-peer, and family-based learning strategies learning on our African social way of living such as fireside storytelling and reading aloud,” Nyaga explains.

Despite the immense success of the programme, she reveals they have faced challenges too. For instance, working with grassroots organisations that don't have the capacity and skills to execute the programme was giving them a headache.

"We were forced to train them first to enable them to acquire skills required to run the programme," she says.