Jackson Sararah: Thirst for books helped me beat Maasai culture, enroll to school

Jackson Sararah is a second-year student at Maasai National Polytechnic taking a Diploma in community development and social work. [Collins Oduor, Standard]

Jackson Sararah, 23, comes from the Ngurman sub-location in Kijiado County.

He is the firstborn in a family of eight. He was born into a polygamous family where his mother was the third wife to his father.

In total they were 22 children from three mothers and getting an education was not a walk in the park.

In an interview with The Standard, Sararah said that his father had to make a choice of whom to take to school.

Growing up, Sararah had a dream of becoming a doctor. However, his dream nearly came to naught thanks to his mother who took personal responsibility to help him.

“I remember my father telling my mother that I am a good boy who can look after the cattle better than the other siblings. Being a firstborn, I was to look after my father's wealth. And so he advised that I remain at home for the task," said Sararah.

He however said that his mother was not comfortable with the father's idea. And being a woman from Maasai community, she was not allowed to speak where men make decisions.

“My mother is a heroine. I am who I am today because of her. It was also a tough decision for me either to go to school as my mother suggested or follow my father's order,” he said.

Sararah said that the mother entered a deal with the area chief to conduct a raid-like activity for him to be taken to school.

He said that the mother told him to cooperate during the raid.

Sararah said that the love and respect he had towards his father was unconditional, and so he had a hard time deciding whose decision to follow.

“Whenever they came around, my grandmother used to hide me.  And I could hear her say that all her grandchildren are in school. I have no one left,” Sararah said.

As time went by, Sararah grew the interested of joining other children in school because they used to pass through the field as I looked after the cattle.

Every time I went to my mother's place she would tell me: “Son, I would really love you to be in school. I want you to live a better life than mine.”

He narrates that, the chief and his team visited thrice without success.

But one time, he gathered the courage to talk to them.

“I knew whatever I did was contrary to my father and grandmother's wish. But I had to do it bearing in my mind what my mum has been frequently telling me as well as accomplishing my dream,” he said.

He said that they convinced the grandmother to allow him to go to school.

"I was worried about what would happen if my dad was told the same and the fact that I was told to be in hiding whenever I see visitors, but I disregarded."

After back-and-forth correspondence between my parent and the chief, they finally agreed that I be enrolled in Oleboistoto Primary School.

"And that is how my school journey started," he said.

Today, Sararah says that it is through education that he has been able to stop her young sister from early marriage.

He said that he has also been able to facilitate his younger sister to gain tailoring skills and is now self-employed.

“We should do away with certain cultural beliefs and practices because they affect someone in one way or the other and are also outdated,” said Sararah.

Senior Assistant Chief Stephen Nteetu from Ngurman said that their efforts of moving from one household to another in search of children who are not in school have yielded fruits.

“At first we experienced a couple of challenges for our mission, one of them being rebellion from the parents, poor family setup,” said Nteetu.

He said that some parents were angry. "I told them that they might not see the essence of their children going to school now but they will see the positive benefit in the near future."

Nteetu said that he had to look for ways to make parents appreciate their children go to school.

“With the help of the non-governmental organizations and county government, we were able to build a preschool in my sub-location. When we started we had 12 pupils but now we have more than 100 pupils on the premises,” says Nteetu.

The chief appreciated the support he was accorded in ensuring every child stayed in school.

He added that women have been in the forefront in ensuring that their children get an education.

“Maasai women have taken up the responsibility, they have taken a bold step in ensuring that their children do not stay home but be in school. If their child is not in school they report to my office immediately,” says Nteetu.

He said part of their efforts was to buy school uniforms for children from extremely poor backgrounds to help them attend school.

"We went also constructed a secondary school in the same sub-location which has been helping parents who are unable to take their children to bigger schools," he said.

“I am happy the school is doing well, we have experienced an increase from 120 students and now we are at 360 are going to have our second KCSE cohort this year,” says Neeta.

However, there has been a challenge of staffing the school. "Parents have been forced to dig into their pockets to pay for teachers. We also need more desks in the school to accommodate the numbers that are in school," he said.