Education as a catalyst for change in Samburu

Travelling through Samburu County, Kenya, you can’t help but gaze in wonder at the vast, dusty landscape and the huge numbers of livestock that are herded through the region. Beside them is often a child as young as five years.

For children growing up in nomadic or semi-nomadic pastoralist communities, mainstream education has, traditionally, not been an option. As cultural mores dictate ways of life, young girls and boys are often obligated to take up the role of shepherds for their family’s livestock, covering great distances with their animals in search of fresh pastures for grazing.

The vast landscape of Kenya’s nomadic pastoralists, on the road north to Samburu County.
Image: Anglican Overseas Aid / Matthew Willman

Education, in the past, may have been considered low on the list of needs within this setting. Now this view is gradually changing, but the question of accessibility remains. The herding responsibilities of children during day mean they have little opportunity to attend mainstream schools, even with the support of their families. To make any progress in improving education for marginalised communities, alternative education models are required.

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The great challenge in pastoralist children’s education

Educational opportunities for girls in Ethiopia’s remote Afar region are limited beyond primary school, due to some community resistance against educating girls.
Image: Christof Krackhardt

For the nomadic pastoralist communities of the Afar region in Ethiopia, education is a major challenge. Anglican Overseas Aid’s project partner, the Afar Pastoralist Development Association (APDA), began its literacy program back in 1996 with the initial training of 21 teachers. Since then, the program has grown significantly. There are currently 231 teacher-sites in 14 of the region’s 29 woredas (districts).

During this time, APDA’s program strategy has evolved to improve coverage and quality of education, assisting the regional government to devise policies and to implement appropriate education options in the pastoralist setting. While primary level education is being achieved in many nomadic pastoralist communities through a combination of mobile and static education, the question now is how these children will continue on.

APDA is piloting a strategy that will ensure more children in the isolated Afar region gain access to education on an ongoing basis. Students who would otherwise not have the opportunity to continue schooling, move to a town to live in student hostel accommodation. They are supported to live while they attend the local government school from grade five onwards.

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