Newsletter March 2013

The latest news from the Maasai Warriors community in Olepolos

January was the start of another school year, with an extra 25 children at the school. We are now educating 101 children, nearly all with UK based sponsors. Our warmest thanks go to all who have helped the charity to achieve this milestone. The school is now gaining quite a reputation in the area with many many parents trying to get their child a place. We are still restricting entry to children who would not otherwise go to school, due to poverty, so nearly all our children have illiterate parents and come from homes made of twigs and mud. It’s not the best pool of children to create a centre of excellence, but so far we are producing some impressive results. Our thanks to the teachers and governors for making this possible.

The teachers and the 101 children at the school
The teachers and the 101 children at the school

This year, we are concentrating on improving facilities at the school. Our suit cases groaned with 150 early reading books for a small library in each classroom and we plan to have a UK primary teacher assist the school next term, to share the best in teaching ideas. A few UK schools sponsor a child and we are pleased to see emails flying between the UK and Kenya. Both schools are gaining immensely. Charlie Bear in nursery class in  Kenya (see photo below) emails his twin in Scotland with all the latest news. According to the teacher, as he can read, this inspires the children to try their best at reading and to catch up with Charlie.

Charlie bear with his Maasai Beads
Charlie bear with his Maasai Beads

Water – clean or dirty, is a constant struggle in the area. During the rains, there is always somewhere to find water, whether it is collected from your roof or a small stream, but during the 8 months per year without rain, it may mean a 10-20 mile round trip to a dirty pool. Three years ago we installed a hand pump into a well, and this is still supplying about 200 families daily with clean water. Soon, we will start drilling a bore-hole at the school to give free water to the community, the school and eventually a health clinic. About 1000 people will gain from this new source of clean, local water. See the next newsletter for the progress.

This family walks 3 miles each way to our well. The school water will be much closer.
This family walks 3 miles each way to our well. The school water will be much closer.

Presidential elections 4th March. Election fever: noise blares constantly from radios and cheap PA systems in campaign cars. There is a political rally right now just 200m from school in the bush. Picture a man with megaphone under an acacia tree with 100 people standing listening and dancing. Every surface in town is plastered with candidates’ mug shots. In 2008 violence and tribal fighting erupted, the winning party accused of vote rigging on a massive scale. Thousands died. People are  advised to keep their heads down when voting this time- no party political t-shirts or propaganda is allowed. Kenyans don’t expect a repeat of 2008 but still, a mass exodus is expected. Children have returned from boarding schools for safety and foreigners are leaving Kenya. We timed our own flight to leave just before the elections.

Election fever in the area town of Kiserian. Note the posters littering every surface
Election fever in the area town of Kiserian. Note the posters littering every surface

Actually, we have a personal interest. Our school builder, Peter is standing for County MP and for the last few months completion of our project has ground to a halt as he focuses his energy on winning votes. We wish him luck and hope he won’t forget us if he is successful. Some form of government funded basic road to the school would be a bonus!

We can’t understand why the manifesto brochures are in English not Swahili, the common language. Answer: to make the candidates appear educated. There are 8 main parties standing, and large chunks of their manifestos are direct copies of each other.  Copying is common in Kenya. We can name 2 other African websites that have copied word for word large parts of our own Charity website.

Shoes. Ok, we have mentioned shoes before but this pair on 5 year old Maritei are quite something. From this trip, another 22 children have good shoes and the pile of 100 pairs in our hallway is slowly diminishing. We hope to re-start the school shoe campaign again in about a year’s time, once we can see our floor again.

This 5 year old walked to school in these shoes. He will go home in good leather shoes.
This 5 year old walked to school in these shoes. He will go home in good leather shoes.

Buildings – In the Maasai areas, we are often confused by the large number of half built houses. When a Maasai has some money, it is always converted into some form of asset like more cattle or part of a building. It is never kept for a rainy day. Our confusion is due to the mis-understanding of their culture. As a Maasai, if you have nothing, it is the duty of your neighbour to help you, whether by feeding you and your children or paying the school fees. When the Osiligi Warriors return from their UK tour, large numbers of neighbours will line up requesting help, so the returning Warriors, like all Maasai, try to spend the money on their own family as soon as possible before it is all given away to their neighbours. As Tajeu says, how can you keep money in your pocket when your neighbour is starving.

As a complete contrast to Kenya, here is a picture taken during the last Warriors’ tour in a Malmesbury (Wiltshire) tea shop, doing what the Maasai like best  – taking a cup of tea.

Malmesbury tea shop. All very English.
Malmesbury tea shop. All very English.

Sipilon the teacher’s ultimate threat to naughty pupils: “ If you are naughty, you can’t come to school tomorrow!”

Finally, if you have not ‘liked’ our facebook page, you are only seeing half the picture. If you enjoy this newsletter, please pass it on. If you don’t, please let us know how to improve it.

Our thanks, as always, to the many kind and generous supporters.

Helen & Roger Pannell
Trustees

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