Riding in the backseat of a Land Cruiser over what seemed to be endless miles of untouched, uninhabited, and ‘this-is-how-God-intended-it-to-be’ land, I couldn’t stop wondering – “How fortunate am I that I get to experience places like this?!..How many other ex-pats have driven through this bush/over this river/through these trees/(you get the picture)?!…How in heavens does Moses (our driver at the time) have any clue where he is going!?” There were many points throughout the journey that there was not even a set of tire tracks in the dirt to serve as our guide.
After a couple of hours of bumping along through the outskirts of the Maasai Mara (located in Narok, Kenya, the main hotspot for Kenyan Safaris), gazing at zebras and talking with my colleagues (more like silently participating) about Kenyan politics, the car came to a stop. We were there – a quaint little compound a midst countless miles of uninhabited land. The Maasai people, who make up the majority of the population of larger Narok, are known for their inhabitants of large pieces of property. This is a convenience considering they are pastoralists and an inconvenience in terms of access to resources. The Maasai often live so far apart that no matter where a school or water source are located, the commute is often a great distance. Because of this, as well as other important cultural reasons, many people do not have the time or finances to complete a Primary (Elementary) or Secondary (High School) education. The arid environment and wild animals are also considerable factors (side note: there are lion researchers currently living on the family compound we visited. Every morning and evening, they pile into their Land Cruiser and go lion tracking!).
Jumping out of the car, I am immediately surrounded by swarms of flies (let’s be honest, this was my third day wearing the same dusty, sweaty skirt…). I quickly noticed that most everyone was covered in flies. I awed at their patience as they casually brushed the flies out of their nose, mouth, and ears every few seconds. When you are pastoralists, particularly in certain seasons, swarms of flies are inevitable.
Quiet, but sprite, 18-year-old Christine hopped out of the car to greet her family. She had journeyed with us from Narok town, where she is studying Computer, to show us her home and assist with translations. After greeting her parents, Great-Grandmother (rumor has is that she is 120, or 80, no one knows for certain…), and younger brother, Christine ran into the tin-roof house to change into her old secondary school uniform.
Unlike most girls her age, Christine is proud to be one of the few in her community to complete her education. For her first three years of secondary school “I [She] was the only girl in my class. It was difficult.” According to Christine, most girls her age are either married off young (some as young as ten-years-old ) or cannot afford to pay school fees. When finances are tight, parents tend to pay for their sons rather than daughters. Because she did not marry young, Christine found it hard to relate to many of her friends. She, and her family, were ridiculed by others for their decision to pursue education – but this has yet to weaken Christine’s strong will.
From a young age, Christine’s father reminded his children that they must “work hard in school so that you [they] can be important people in the community.” Though neither he nor his wife received an education, they understood the importance of educating their children. Having produced a family of seven, both parents struggle to generate enough income to pay for school fees. Even with land, livestock, and a duka (a small items shop), school fees were still too much. Yet, according to Christine’s mother, “I was not afraid because God was there.”
Both Christine and her older sister have now completed their secondary educations (her sister is currently in University). Christine, the second born in her family, has always admired her sister, “She was number one every year since she was in school. And now she is doing law.” The girls have even been able to bring home what they’ve learned to assist their parents with their duka and livestock business finances.
Christine is now a role model for many girls in her community. When I asked if other girls look up to her, a small grin shyly spread across her face and she quietly responded, “The few girls in the area who are not married off are working hard so they can reach the level I’ve reached. “ She then played with her blonde and black braids for a moment, paused, and said, “I tell them to work hard because life is so hard.”After completing Computer, Christine will wait for the results from her secondary exams and then apply to university. “I want to become a dentist so that I can come back to the village and help others. One day I want to start a school to educate more girls.” Christine’s role-model future is just taking off.
Because of your support and generosity, World Concern is working to empowering girls and boys around the world to take hold of their futures. Through One Village Transformed, World Concern is equipping families to pay for their children’s school fees.
The softly spoken stories of those such as Christine are often the most powerful. They are stories of hard work, humility, resilience, gratitude, and service to others. I’m humbled and encouraged to strive to live that story for myself.