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  • Writer's pictureAmos Kipeen

In Their Words: Stories from Young Maasai

Oliveseed hosted a Writing Competition with Mara Discovery Centre on January 2nd, inviting students from the Maasai Mara to write about their life while sequestered at home during COVID in 2020. We provided lunch and writing materials, and the students came with their creativity. We expected 50 students, but 82 showed up! We plan to publish a selection of these essays in fall of 2021. Here's a report from Amos.

by Amos Kipeen

This week, we embarked on the analysis of the stories written by various pupils and students across Aitong village. The analysis and sorting out of the stories was done by Patrick Lepapa and Alex Loso. Patrick Lepapa is a teacher of English and Literature and an accomplished author. Alex Loso is a journalist and a versatile freelance writer.

Among the 82 participants, 25 pupils from lower primary classes took part in the Writing Competition. These are students from grade 4. Another 45 were from classes 5 to 8. This is the group that really wrote interesting and amazing stories. Finally, 12 participants from secondary schools were able to get involved in the writing competition.

We had planned for 50 young writers, but 82 came. They were seated mostly outside.

As part of our analysis, we categorized the stories into fiction and nonfiction. Many of these students were able to do an amazing job, although 5 from primary and even secondary schools could not at all communicate. This is unfortunate, and this group of students needs urgent assistance.

We selected the 27 most creative and interesting stories for more analysis and further scrutiny before rewarding the best participants. The highest performance among the students to be rewarded was a 68% mark out of the total 70%. This shows that competition was high. There were two critical effects that forms part of our observation:

  • In one instance, a girl was almost married off by her parents as a result of COVID-19 stress. The girl had to run away for safety as no one came for her rescue. This shows that the effects of this novel disease are dire and dangerous. A total shut down of learning institutions has made the girl-child more vulnerable than before.

  • Another conspicuous instance in the stories is that of two teenagers who married each other. This happened with the support of their parents. These teenagers are too young to be in marriage. Being out of school has primarily contributed to this.

As part of our observation, we found that a good number of students couldn't communicate at all. There is a total mismatch in the language of this group of students. There is an urgent need for literacy support especially for students in public schools, which we are very keen to work on. This information helps us understand which schools to focus on next.

Finally, the success of the entire exercise was facilitated by OliveSeed and the Mara Discovery Centre. We'll have more to tell you soon and even plan to publish a collection of stories to share.


About the Author

Amos Kipeen is co-founder and director of Oliveseed Kenya Trust. A native of the Maasai Mara, he is a lifelong conservationist and activist for education and community empowerment.

Amos is also founder and CEO of Mara Discovery Community Empowerment Centre; and was formerly manager of Mara Girls Leadership School and program manager of Basecamp Foundation's operations in the Mara.


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