School enrollment amongst the Maasai is very low
Free primary public schools were introduced in Kenya in 2003 and have had a significant impact on school enrollment at the national level. Amongst the Maasai, however, school enrollment remains low. Less than 20% of Maasai girls enroll in school. Of those who do, less than one in five finish primary school, significantly less go to secondary school, and only a very few make it to university. This drop out rate is exacerbated by the fact that there are no public secondary schools, and private schools are prohibitively expensive for most Maasai families.
But why are enrollment rates so low to begin with? And why are drop out rates in primary school so high?
1. Economic Costs:
Private boarding schools are prohibitively expensive for most Maasai families. Public elementary schools in Kenya don’t charge tuition fees, but do require families to provide school uniforms for their children. Even this cost can be prohibitive for the Maasai, who live in extreme poverty. Even when families can afford a school uniform, they might not be able to afford uniforms for all their children and therefore need to choose which will be fortunate enough to go to school. Boys are usually favored first.
In addition, by sending girls to school instead of marrying them off, families forego the cattle that are received as dowry in exchange for their marriage.
2. Perceived Gender Roles:
Pastoral communities such as the Maasai do not truly perceive the value of investing in a girl’s education, who’s future is destined to be one of domestic servitude. And because when a girl marries, she joins her husband’s family, parents often fail to see what benefits they will reap from their daughter’s education. Marrying a daughter early isn’t seen to impact her future wellbeing and is often, quite to the contrary, seen as improving her circumstances. It is also considered to be a means of protecting her virtue, as it reduces the likelihood of her falling pregnant before marriage.
3. Long Distances:
For those girls fortunate enough to be enrolled in public elementary schools, these are often located miles away from their homes. The distances they must walk to get there and back every day often make it unsafe for girls to go to school, especially at younger ages. Children may have to cross elephant corridors and face other dangers native to the areas in which they live. The children who do go to school are often tired from having risen very early in the morning and from the long commutes, and are therefore at a disadvantage to concentrate and learn.
4. Menstrual Cycles:
When Maasai girls reach puberty, their education is often impacted by their menstrual cycles. They rarely have access to sanitary pads, which means that once a month, these girls are home-bound for a week. This, in turn, causes them to fall further and further behind in their studies, until many lose hope of keeping up and quit school.
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Sponsoring a Maasai girl's education changes her life, and her family's
Quality private boarding schools provide children with a good education, but at an annual cost of $500, they are out of reach for most Maasai families.
Extreme poverty, tradition and gender bias weigh heavily on Maasai families, and heavier still on Maasai girls. Parents are pressured into foregoing their daughters’ education in favor of an early marriage. Once decided, Maasai girls must undergo female genital mutilation (FGM), the Maasai’s traditional rite of passage to womanhood that necessarily precedes marriage.
Maasai girls are often married by the time they are 12 years old and typically have three to five babies, of which half will die before the age of five.
Sponsoring a Maasai girl's education ensures she stays safe from female genital mutilation (FGM) and early marriage, and gets a good education and three meals a day. The knowledge and skills she gains at school enable her to build a healthier and more prosperous futures for herself, her family and her community. These girls tend to marry later in life. They spend 90% of their income on their families, in contrast to the 35% that men spend. Their children will be healthier and better educated, and their parents will be better cared for.
A GOOD EDUCATION ENABLES A CHILD TO BUILD A BETTER FUTURE
"Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world." - Nelson Mandela
Education is a powerful means to unlocking change
Not only does a good education provide children with the knowledge and skills to foster more prosperous futures for themselves, their families and their communities. It also teaches boys and girls about the risks and consequences of female genital mutilation (FGM) and early marriage, and about the laws that protect the girls' and women's rights.
Education is a powerful driver of positive social change.
Coins for Change has sponsored over 50 children into quality boarding schools
It is for all of these reasons that Coins for Change has, with the generosity of its donors, sponsored over 50 Maasai girls and boys into quality boarding schools. The majority of our sponsored students are girls, but we know that we must also educate boys to meet our mission. The better educated the male Maasai is, the more they will support the laws against early marriage and female genital mutilation (FGM).
“Let me promise Coins for Change team that the seed they have sowed will grow soon and transform the society.” – Jackson Sinyok, a sponsored Maasai student
Coins for Change also contributes to the local village school to improve the quality of the education it provides
Not all children are lucky enough to be sponsored into quality boarding schools. Indeed, most children attend the local village school, a state school that receives limited funding, has class sizes upwards of 60 students, and offers limited numbers of school books. Good teachers are understandably deterred by the idea that if they come to Amboseli to teach, they must live in a traditional Maasai manyatta (dung hut).
In an effort to improve the quality of teachers and therefore of the education provided by the local village school, Coins for Change built two teacher houses and provided $2,500 for educational materials, curricular books and school supplies. The impact has been immediate, and significant!
Chief Joseph Sankale with the head teacher of the local village school, at the inauguration of the new CfC teachers house.
Unfortunately, many children suffer from severe ear infections and vision problems that impair their ability to learn
Ear infections and vision problems in Maasai children too often become more severe issues, resulting in hearing or visual impairment, because poverty levels are such that most Maasai families do not have the resources for (or, many times, even the access to) proper medical care.
Getting eye exams and glasses is fairly easy and inexpensive and can make a world of difference to a child. More severe issues arise from longstanding untreated ear infections. These can result in significant hearing loss or, in the worst case, complete hearing loss. Severe cases require a surgical intervention and, as there aren't any adequate treatment centers nearby, children must go all the way to Nairobi (four hours away). Repeated trips are necessary for consultations, medications to prepare them for surgeries and follow up visits. These costs are prohibitive for most Maasai families.
Were these children to see and hear well enough to properly follow lessons at school, they would thrive. Help us give them the opportunity to gain an education! Join our Vision and Hearing Campaign.
Become a part of something bigger!
With your help and donation, we can save a Maasai girl from a grim predicament and give her the opportunity and freedom to gain an education and the skills to build a better future for herself, her family and her community.
100% of every dollar generated online goes directly into our programs to help rescue Maasai girls from female genital mutilation (FGM) and early marriage.