Learning with the Maasai: Bringing Maasai core values

Learning Together:
Noonkodin Secondary School and UK schools
Gemma Burford
Co-Founder & International Liaison,
Noonkodin Secondary School
Emaiyan – Blessings (Starting from the heart)
Meetings always start with a
prayer. The most important
ones are held under a special
tree, which is like a natural
‘church’ for the Maasai.
 The Maasai call God Engai.
 When the women milk the
cows in the morning, they spill
a few drops of milk to ‘give
something back to the Earth’.
 People go to the ‘Mountain of
God’ to pray and ask for help.
 Each area has a spiritual
leader, who’s also a healer.
Enaboishu – Oneness (We ARE one family!)
Young men aren’t allowed to
eat meat, drink milk or even
take a bath alone!
 Elders & children are looked
after by the whole village
 Children eat wherever they’re
hungry and sleep wherever
they’re tired
 Everyone helps out at
community festivals
 Everyone works together in
building new houses, searching
for lost cattle and growing food
Eserian – Harmony (A place of peace)
The Maasai keep livestock
(cattle, goats, sheep and
donkeys) and some grow crops
like maize, beans and wheat.
 Peace (eserian) means a good
relationship between people,
livestock and wild animals
 Maasai live alongside wild
animals, and kill them only
when they are a direct threat to
their livestock!
 Plants and trees are used to
make homes, tools, and even
medicines to treat diseases.
Osingolio – Song (Passing on the tradition)
Traditional Maasai
communities didn’t write
anything down…
Songs and stories are the
community’s `libraries’!
Elders tell stories to children
around the fire
Stories and songs of ancient
heroes are used to teach
children how to behave
Dance is used to help people
make friends and get to know
one another
In the past, the Maasai were famous for being fierce warriors
who used to fight other tribes. An important new challenge is
learning to work together with people who look different, speak
different languages, and value different things!
The weather in Maasai land is changing. Sometimes there’s not
enough rain (droughts), and sometimes there’s too much
(floods), so livestock and people die. Diseases kill livestock too.
Getting enough clean water has always been difficult, and now
it’s even harder. Some 10-year-olds have to carry a 10-litre
drum of water on their backs for three hours every day! (Would
you want to carry it for three minutes?)
As towns, cities, farms and National Parks grow, it’s hard to find
enough land for keeping livestock without ruining the grass and
Going to school
When Maasai children go to school, they learn the same sort of
things as English children: Maths, Science, History, Geography,
English, and the national language, which is called Ki-Swahili.
They don’t have a chance to learn about things like how to look
after livestock, how to respect and protect nature, which berries
are good to eat, or how to use plants for making medicines.
So when the old people die, there is nobody left who knows
about these things. The songs, stories and knowledge die too!
There is an African proverb: “Whenever an elder dies, a library
burns to the ground”.
Noonkodin Secondary School
Noonkodin Secondary School
We built Noonkodin Secondary School to give young Maasai a
place where they can still learn English, Maths, Science and the
other subjects, but keep learning their culture and values too.
They learn how to work together with people from different tribes
and even different countries!
Years 8-9 have special classes where they talk about their history,
share songs and stories, and learn practical skills like cooking and
making jewellery.
Year 10 students go out into the villages to talk to elderly people,
find out from them about how to make plant medicines, and put
the knowledge into books so that it can be kept for ever.
Noonkodin’s Motto:
“The pen is mightier than the spear”
TEAM: Together Everyone Achieves More!
Maasai families work very hard to send their children to
Noonkodin, but there are some who can’t find enough money.
We can work as a team to make sure that nobody at Noonkodin
ever has to leave school because they can’t afford it!
We can join forces with Noonkodin School to improve its
buildings and get more books, computers, equipment, etc.
In 2009-2010, through its partnerships with UK schools,
Noonkodin was able to build a new boys’ dormitory and a new
kitchen, equip the science lab, set up a library and install four
new computers.
Our next goal is to buy a vehicle, so that pupils and staff can be
taken to hospital quickly if there is an emergency.
Learning Together
What can we learn, with the Maasai youth at Noonkodin, about
healthy ways of enjoying nature without destroying it?
How can we make sure that children in Tanzania and the UK
grow up to care about one another, protect the things that are
important, and work together with all different kinds of people?
Why are some people hungry while others have too much? Why
is land being taken away from some people, to make others even
richer? How can we make the world fairer for everyone?
What can we, as young people, learn from our elders? Are there
plants on our doorsteps that can be used as food or medicine?
Are there old songs, stories and games that need to be saved?
[email protected]
With thanks to Bob Webzell ARPS, Trustee of Serian
UK, for the wonderful pictures in this slide show.
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