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School survives on ‘goat bank’

BUSINESS
By | Mar 6th 2010 | 6 min read
By | March 6th 2010
BUSINESS

By Joe Ombuor

When schools witnessed hungry pupils troop out during the prolonged drought, those at a school in Maasai land went about their lessons unperturbed. Oldonyo Onyokie Primary School retained its pupils in school, thanks to the innovation of septuagenarian Pasimei Ng’otiek.

The year was 1975. At the time most Maasais shunned education. Ng’otiek turned the shade of an acacia tree on his farm into an open air classroom and used goats to pay the teacher who taught his children.

The school founder Pasimei Ng’otiek

Head teacher Patrick ole Sayaanka (right) with Pasimei Ng’otiek during a past event at the school.

Soon, other less conservative parents brought in their ‘lazy’ children — the ones considered bad herders — to learn with Ng’otiek’s children. "I would cull my goats, sell them and buy food for the children and the teacher. With time, I persuaded other parents to do likewise to help feed the growing population," says Mzee Ng’otiek.

Using proceeds from the "goat bank" they built a classroom made of timber and corrugated iron sheets. The simple structure was a lot better than having the children learn in the open where they were exposed to weather vagaries.

The parents also bought a few desks. "We named the school Oldonyo Onyokie after a hill overlooking it," says Ng’otiek.

The Ministry of Education recognised their efforts and posted teachers to the school.

Tremendous growth

The headmaster, Patrick ole Sayaanka, says the school witnessed tremendous growth after the Oldonyo Onyokie group ranch built three additional classrooms, each at a cost of Sh400,000. A few years later four more classrooms were built with funds from the Heart Foundation.

The newest classroom that brings the total to 11 was built by the Arid Lands Resource Management Project through the World Bank Free Primary Education fund at a cost of Sh300,000. The project also bought desks.

The school established a library after two former American teachers, Don and Pat, donated 3,000 books. Today, the school, with up to Class Eight, has 393 pupils and 166 of them are girls.

One of Ngo’tiek’s children who was among the pioneer pupils is an army officer. A daughter who also studied at the school is married to the assistant chief of Oldonyo Onyokie sub-location.

The school is supplied with clean water, provided by the Magadi Soda Company in collaboration with Olkejuado County Council, the Kajiado North Constituency Development Fund and the Ministry of Water Development. Mr Sayaanka says the project cost in excess of Sh3.5 million.

Sayaanka says only three of nine teachers are paid by the parents through the ‘goat bank’. He says the bank has been sustained by the rule that every new parent donates a goat or sheep before their children can be admitted.

Before the drought, the bank had 150 goats and sheep but that reduced to 80.

The location

"We also had ten heifers, each valued at about Sh15,000, but these went with the drought. We used to pay workers with money from milk sales," he says.

The school kitchen that cost Sh150,000 was built with proceeds from the sale of 300 goats prior to the drought.

Located 16km from Magadi town, Oldonyo Onyokie in the new Kajiado North District sits on a hot pan of sorts where sweltering temperatures have turned the nearby Lake Magadi into a mass of salt and soda ash.

The hill, baked red by the excessive heat of the sun, has a semblance of green only occasionally when the azure skies release some rain.

All that one sees besides the barren hill and stones are stunted vegetation that bear thorns for leaves and myriad sheep and goats, browsing peacefully. Last year, 23 pupils sat the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education exam at the school. Only five of them were girls.

Aggressive campaign

Sayaanka blames the gender imbalance on female genital mutilation and early marriages that were rampant in the area before an aggressive campaign was launched to fight the vice. "There was a time no single girl reached Class Eight, but the situation is improving and we expect seven girls to sit KCPE this year," he says.

His sentiments are echoed by Senior Chief Philip ole Nkake of Oldonyo Onyokie location. The chief says many girls bow to peer pressure at a certain age when they see most of their age mates married.

Ng’otiek is today a respected elder of the school, which he steered as chairman for 20 years before he surrendered the chairmanship in 1995. He says his dream is to see the school attain secondary status and Maasai girls from the area to join university before he dies. dren and the teacher. With time, I persuaded other parents to do likewise to help feed the growing population," says Mzee Ng’otiek.

Using proceeds from the "goat bank" they built a classroom made of timber and corrugated iron sheets. The simple structure was a lot better than having the children learn in the open where they were exposed to weather vagaries.

The parents also bought a few desks. "We named the school Oldonyo Onyokie after a hill overlooking it," says Ng’otiek.

The Ministry of Education recognised their efforts and posted teachers to the school.

Tremendous growth

The headmaster, Patrick ole Sayaanka, says the school witnessed tremendous growth after the Oldonyo Onyokie group ranch built three additional classrooms, each at a cost of Sh400,000. A few years later four more classrooms were built with funds from the Heart Foundation.

The newest classroom that brings the total to 11 was built by the Arid Lands Resource Management Project through the World Bank Free Primary Education fund at a cost of Sh300,000. The project also bought desks.

The school established a library after two former American teachers, Don and Pat, donated 3,000 books. Today, the school, with up to Class Eight, has 393 pupils and 166 of them are girls.

One of Ngo’tiek’s children who was among the pioneer pupils is an army officer. A daughter who also studied at the school is married to the assistant chief of Oldonyo Onyokie sub-location.

The school is supplied with clean water, provided by the Magadi Soda Company in collaboration with Olkejuado County Council, the Kajiado North Constituency Development Fund and the Ministry of Water Development. Mr Sayaanka says the project cost in excess of Sh3.5 million.

Sayaanka says only three of nine teachers are paid by the parents through the ‘goat bank’. He says the bank has been sustained by the rule that every new parent donates a goat or sheep before their children can be admitted.

Before the drought, the bank had 150 goats and sheep but that reduced to 80.

The location

"We also had ten heifers, each valued at about Sh15,000, but these went with the drought. We used to pay workers with money from milk sales," he says.

The school kitchen that cost Sh150,000 was built with proceeds from the sale of 300 goats prior to the drought.

Located 16km from Magadi town, Oldonyo Onyokie in the new Kajiado North District sits on a hot pan of sorts where sweltering temperatures have turned the nearby Lake Magadi into a mass of salt and soda ash.

The hill, baked red by the excessive heat of the sun, has a semblance of green only occasionally when the azure skies release some rain.

All that one sees besides the barren hill and stones are stunted vegetation that bear thorns for leaves and myriad sheep and goats, browsing peacefully. Last year, 23 pupils sat the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education exam at the school. Only five of them were girls.

Aggressive campaign

Sayaanka blames the gender imbalance on female genital mutilation and early marriages that were rampant in the area before an aggressive campaign was launched to fight the vice. "There was a time no single girl reached Class Eight, but the situation is improving and we expect seven girls to sit KCPE this year," he says.

His sentiments are echoed by Senior Chief Philip ole Nkake of Oldonyo Onyokie location. The chief says many girls bow to peer pressure at a certain age when they see most of their age mates married.

Ng’otiek is today a respected elder of the school, which he steered as chairman for 20 years before he surrendered the chairmanship in 1995. He says his dream is to see the school attain secondary status and Maasai girls from the area to join university before he dies.

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