| At ACF, we believe:
- All Maasai children deserve an environment
of hope, respect and understanding.
- That all of our actions must be guided by the
utmost integrity and honesty.
- That we do not use any of the funds we
receive for administrative costs; all donations
are used solely to provide education, books
and uniforms for Maasai children.
Are you looking for a way to help others less
fortunate, but don't have a lot to spend?
A small amount goes a long way for our kids
and it makes a huge difference in their lives!
|Educating one Mtoto* at a time
Who are the Maasai?
These are a semi-nomadic people located in Kenya and northern Tanzania. The Maasai are among the best
known of African ethnic groups, due to their residence near the many game parks of East Africa, and their
distinctive customs and dress. They own cattle, sheep and goats which they follow around seasonally in
search of new grazing grounds and water sources.
Traditionally the Maasai have always been a proud and independent tribe. They did not cultivate the land and
depend on a cash economy as many of those around them did, rather they lived off the milk that their cattle
provided them. The measure of a man's wealth in his tribe is in terms of cattle and children. A herd of 50
cattle is respectable, and the more children the better. A man who has plenty of one but not the other is
considered to be poor.
The Maasai live a natural way of life with no modern conveniences and few comforts. There are no paved
roads (let alone vehicles), their homes have no electricity or refrigeration, no running water. They live in one
of the few areas still populated by wild animals but have only hand made weapons (such as a spear) for
The men in the Maasai tribe are born and raised to be warriors. They don‘t marry when they are young but
instead are sent out with the calves and lambs as soon as they can walk. This is the reason why there can be
such an age difference between husbands and wives; boys are not allowed to marry until they are older,
(when they have become “elders“), while the women are expected to marry when they are quite young.
Maasai houses (inkajijik) are loaf shaped and made of mud, sticks, grass, cow dung and cow's urine. Within
this space, the family cooks, eats, sleeps, socializes, and stores food, fuel, and other household possessions.
Small livestock are also often accommodated within this structure. Villages are enclosed in a circular fence
(an enkang) built by the men, usually of thorned acacia, a native tree. At night, all cows, goats, and sheep
are placed in an enclosure in the center, safe from wild animals.
Women are responsible for making the houses as well as supplying water, collecting firewood, milking cattle
and cooking for the family. Warriors are in charge security while boys are responsible for herding livestock.
During the drought season, both warriors and boys assume the responsibility for herding livestock. The
elders are directors and advisors for day-to-day activities.
Education promotes growth but proves a challenge for the Maasai people
For Kenya as a whole, modern education has become a top priority. Over the years, many projects have
begun to help Maasai tribal leaders find ways to preserve their traditions while also balancing the education
needs of their children for the modern world. As a people, they are coming to understand that education
need not be seen as a surrender to mainstream culture, but rather as a way to fix those aspects of their own
culture that need fixing – particularly in the treatment of women and girls. Despite this new awareness,
there are still many factors that make it difficult for a Maasai child to obtain a good education. Expense,
distance and cultural challenges are the top three.
Public day schools are free. But all students in Kenya are required to wear uniforms, and many families
cannot afford even the uniform needed for their child to go to school. Public primary boarding schools,
which offer many advantages, are also prohibitively expensive for most Maasai families. The quality of
education in these rural day schools rarely prepares students for the national tests, which are required to
go on to secondary school. These schools are underfunded and overcrowded,with a student-teacher ratio
as high as 100 to 1, and only those exceptional children who do well on the tests are allowed to go.
Since the Maasai require significant expanses of land to graze their cattle, their villages are constructed far
apart from each other. As a result, one school must serve several villages typically within a 10 - 20 mile
radius. There are no cars, buses, horses, or even bicycles available to Maasai children, so they must walk
this great distance.
Even for those who make it to school, the long walks undermine education. Not surprisingly, teachers report
that children who have spent two to five hours walking to school in the morning (often without having had
anything to eat) are tired and their ability to concentrate is impaired. Also, it is often late when children arrive
home after such long walks, yet they are still required to do chores and care for the livestock. Even if they
have the desire and energy to study after they are finished with their responsibilities at home, it is dark and
there is no electricity or artificial light.
In the past, Maasai girls were often pressured into early marriages which was the prevailing reason they had
to drop out of school. While there is still pressure on the girls to be circumcised and marry earlier than in
western societies, traditions are beginning to change as more of the youth become educated. Many
communities are now holding rites of passage ceremonies for girls that do not involve circumcision and are
allowing young people to choose their husband or wife themselves (instead of having their marriage arranged).
The longer a boy or girl remains in school the later they will marry and typically they will have fewer children.
It is vital that we continue to provide scholarships for these youth; they are keen to have an education and
understand the importance of it for their community.