This article was published by our friends at The International Ecotourism Society, who have agreed to its republication here. View the original article on their Your Travel Choice blog.
Global Basecamps, in collaboration with Maasai Wanderings, contributes to a variety of ecotourism and community outreach programs in Tanzania. In 2004, Maasai Wanderings visited a Maasai village called Ilkurot (which means “dusty place”) just north of Arusha, and saw that the schools were in desperate need of supplies and repairs, and there was no nursery school.
Following this visit, the Ilkurot community project was developed to raise funds for the school and to make education more accessible to the Maasai children. The Ilkurot community project began by setting up a nursery school so the village children would be able to enter the Tanzanian education system and would hopefully then move onto primary and secondary school and beyond.
People in Ilkurot live below the Tanzanian poverty line and earn an average of less than $200 per year. The cost of schooling is about $40-$50, making it difficult for children to receive an education. With the help of donors and volunteers, Global Basecamps and Maasai Wanderings strive to make education easily accessible and free to the Maasai children of Ilkurot, with the hope that educated Maasai will be better equipped to aid in retaining their ancient culture.
Maasai Village Experience Tours
In 2005, the Ilkurot Nursery School opened and had 45 students between the ages of 5 and 7. The class was held in a small room, but the number of students quickly outgrew the small facilities. As a way to raise additional funds for the school, Global Basecamps in Tanzania developed ‘Maasai Village Experience Tours’, giving travelers the unique opportunity to interact with and learn from the Maasai people. These cultural tours helped raise funds to build a new classroom for the Ilkurot School and continue to help build the Ilkurot community project.
The new classroom was opened in January 2006 with a large increase of students. To accommodate all the new students, the school began holding two sessions a day. The five-year-old group consisted of approximately 110 students and was held in the morning, while the afternoon lessons consisted of about 100 six-year-old students. At each session the students are served uji (ground corn porridge with sugar and oil), the staple diet of the Maasai people.
Community Members Benefit from Ilkurot Nursery School
In 2007, over 1,000 textbooks were purchased, and for the first time students had guides to their studies. During this year, funds were also used to plaster the classroom and fit glass windows, which were previously wooden windows, allowing dust in and making the classrooms very dirty. In an effort to control the amount of dust in Ilkurot, a tree and grass planting project was put in place and a 2,000-liter water tank was installed. Almost 500 trees were planted in an effort to limit the dust that flies around and caused many eye infections and dry coughs.
The school was able to employ a Tinga Tinga artist to stay in the village for a few weeks to paint murals and educational drawings on the classroom walls. The school was also able to build a playground – the first playground in the school and in the district – with a basic football pitch, netball court, and volleyball court that allowed for sports education in their curriculum. In 2009, Ilkurot saw many more changes, including the completion a library/teacher’s resource center.
In addition to providing valuable educational opportunities to children, Ilkurot Nursery School also supports teachers and cooks by offering employment, and promotes additional cultural tourism throughout the village. Recently, a building was constructed to include a kitchen, store, staff room and changing room with a 3,000-liter water tank, and six new toilets. Further, the children now all have school uniforms, made as part of another community project that allows women with disabled children to stay at home and earn an income by creating a sewing business.
Maasai Village Life and the Importance of Education
In Maasai villages, young boys are typically sent away with their father’s cattle and accompanied by older morani (warriors) for 3-5 years tending to the cattle. Therefore, the Nursery School has a higher attendance of girls than boys. The girls that attend school also have chores they must complete before or after their lesson. By the time the students are 5 or 6, their mothers may have had 2 or 3 more children, for which the young girls are responsible for. They feed, bathe and carry the smaller children.
The lifestyle of young males and the responsibilities expected of young girls were a hurdle in the Ilkurot community projects. While trying not to disrupt the norms of Maasai life, the school tries to encourage education in the community. The school continually changes lesson schedules and requirements to make it more acceptable to the Maasai community.
The main task of the nursery school is teaching the children Swahili (Tanzania’s national language). Since the primary school curriculum is taught in Swahili only, children who do not learn the language will not be able to advance to primary school. The nursery school also teaches some English phrases because secondary school is taught only in English.
About Global Basecamps
Global Basecamps is a specialty travel company designed to simplify the process of researching and booking sustainable hotels, lodges and private tours worldwide. Travel at your own pace with a custom itinerary or simply find accommodations and excursions so that your trip priorities are met and you have maximum flexibility while on the road. Global Basecamps is the North American representative for Maasai Wanderings.