The Samburu are a proud warrior-race of cattle-owning pastoralists, a section of the Maa-speaking people amongst whom the Maasai are the best known.

The Samburu people, who live in the north-central region of Kenya, are a sub-tribe of the Maasai. They lead a traditional, semi-nomadic lifestyle. Traditionally they would move from one place to another every few months. In recent years, however, they began to permanently settle in areas where educational facilities can be found. That has been the case with the Samburu community living right next to Samburu National Reserve. There tens of Samburu people have built their houses around the only school in the village.

The Samburu tribe aims to preserve their religious and cultural rituals by wearing traditional tribal clothing and living in small huts made of cow dumps and mud. People belonging to the community share all the income and food they get and they look after each other, following the ideas of fraternity and loyalty.

For years, Samburu’s lifestyle remained untouched by Western influences. In recent years, however, modernity has entered their lives and the Samburu people had to adapt to the new age. Now they frequently buy their food in the supermarket instead of just relying on their own animals. Moreover, many of the people belonging to the community use cell phones and the Internet.

The main way for the Samburu people to get income is to welcome foreign visitors, invite them to their village and show them how they live. In addition to that, they sell jewellery and decorative items they make themselves.

Moreover, the Samburu people have started to realise how important education is so they send their children to school instead of making them work or take care of the animals.

Children who go to school there learn standard subjects such as Maths or English and they wear school uniforms. Nevertheless, as the traditional community struggles with problems such as female genital cutting or discrimination of women and girls, additional educational programmes have been put in place to eliminate harmful preconceptions about gender roles. Empowering girls and promoting gender equality is an important aspect of the school’s curriculum.

The school does more than just provide children with education. It also serves as a shelter for those who have a difficult situation at home or those who have lost their parents and do not have a safe place to go. Children who experience such hardship can stay in dorms located behind the school and they receive regular meals. Without the help of the school’s officials, many would become homeless and would have no choice but to steal to survive.

The teachers working at the school are full of passion for what they do and have big ambitions for the future. They want to inspire children who have been less fortunate in life to change their situation and break out of poverty. They are also committed to making sure that girls are not being put at a disadvantage just because of their gender.

Running the school in a traditional village comes with many challenges. The school’s activities are severely underfunded as the facility relies completely on donations. Because of that children often lack books, notebooks, and other essential supplies. Moreover, the dropout rate remains high as many students who face extreme poverty at home decide to engage in income-generating activities instead of pursuing education.

Despite the challenges, however, the days in the Samburu village’s only school are filled with laughter and joy as most pupils view the ability to get an education as one of the greatest gifts life gave them. They know that studying hard is the key to making their dreams come true and helping their families.

Even though the lifestyle of the Samburu people differs from the one we know in the West, there is so much beauty in it that anyone who comes to visit the village will leave feeling inspired. Interacting with the school’s pupils as well as with other members of the community makes Westerners realise how important it is to be grateful for even the smallest things.

About the author:

Katarzyna Rybarczyk is a Political Correspondent for Immigration Advice Service, an immigration law firm based in the UK but operating globally. She has recently spent a month volunteering with vulnerable communities in the Kibera slum in Nairobi, Kenya.

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