As one traverses the expansive wildlife migratory corridor of Kenya’s famous Maasai Mara, one can’t help but marvel at the scenic beauty inter-laced with the wild game roaming freely. Maasai Mara Game Reserve is perhaps the most visited park in East and Central Africa and has been in contention to be named as the eighth wonder world of the world during the infamous wildebeest migration.
This national treasure has been somewhat a resource curse at times for the Maa community of Nkoilale living only 10 kilometers away from the park. Human wild life conflict is common place in the area hindering access to education for the children in the area. Lack of adequate schools has further compounded the education levels in the area. In the entire location, there is only one primary school serving close to 3000 pupils, with the next school being 16 kilometers away.
Informed by the dire education situation prevalent in the area, Nkoilale Community Development Organisation (NCDO) approached KCDF in coming up with a feeder school to reduce the distances covered by school going children as well as mitigate deaths caused by roaming wild animals.
“Most parents decide not to send their young children to school owing to the intense human wildlife conflict. Incidences of people being trampled to death by elephants or attacked by lions are all too common here. The need to come up with a feeder school to promote education in this largely pastoral community was of utmost importance” said Jacob Losikany, the Coordinator of NCDO and Headmaster of Nkoilale Primary School.
The project, through a match grant from KCDF under the Pamoja4Change programme, which was completed in April, is expected to serve more than 150 children under the age of eight years in the environs where the school is being built. The group has already identified volunteer teachers as well as furniture for the classes. The children attending the school will be required to pay a highly subsidized fee, less than USD 1 every quarter for maintenance cost of the school as well as educational supplies such as chalk.
Under the match grant, the community was tasked with raising Kshs 700,000 (USD 8200). This being a new concept of funding to the community, NCDO opted to adopt an ingenious way of raising funds which would be easily accepted and adopted by the community. With the Maasai being a predominantly pastoral community, NCDO appealed to the community members by convincing them to contribute either in monetary terms or in kind by donating atleast one head of cattle which would later be auctioned and the money used to match the grant.
“This matching concept was fairly new to us, most pastoralists have wealth but in form of cattle. After we tried raising hard cash with minimal success, we adopted the in-kind support from the community through donation of goats, sheep or cows to our group. This was an instant hit since this is the language our people understand best”, said Jacob Losikany.
The concept of in kind donations was also readily accepted because of the transparency element of it. The heads of cattle was confined in one of the schools compound which was accessible to all, where the heads of cattle was fattened so as to fetch a good price when selling. The heads of cattle was then auctioned in the local market and the funds rose declared to all. The group was able to raise Kshs 600,000 after the auction which attracted more than 300 community members.
The group also complemented the funds raised from conservation money they receive from the nearby Maasai Mara Game Reserve, as most of the land surrounding the park has been converted to conservancy land to promote tourism while mitigating human wildlife conflict. Camps and lodges within the park also gave a donation of Kshs 200,000.
“We are very excited as a community to have the feeder school so close to our homes. I had sworn never to let my young children go to school as I was not ready to loose them to the wild animals. They also have to cross a river which can be extremely dangerous since the area is prone to flash flooding”, said Charity Nkoitoi, a community member who resides close to the new school.
The school has been recognized by the Government though the Ministry of Education and will be a feeder school to Nkoilale Primary School, the only fully fledged school in the area. The group has also identified another area where they plan to construct another feeder school to reduce the distances covered by the young children.
The project hopes to improve Early Childhood Education in the region which has largely been non-existent by using the feeder school as a center of excellence through adoption of child friendly concepts.