A Masai tells of life between tradition and modernity: education is the key to success

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Edwin Kisuto is Masai. He lived a life as shepherd and nomad and in simple, windowless huts. The fact that he was forced by the police to go to school changed his life. A report on the dichotomy between Traditon and modernity.


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Simone JansonSimone Janson, German Top20 blogger, Appearances in ARD, occasionally articles for WORLD, TIME, WIWO, t3n, W & V, makes Best of HR - Berufebilder.de & HR communication.


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From the straw hut to the e-mail

The cottages of the Masai are simple: two beds of straw and skins and a fire place. A small hole as a window and the entrance resembles a small labyrinth to ward off enemies.

Edwin Kisuto is 28 and so grown up. For Edwin is Masai. Today he owns a cell phone, an e-mail address and a driver's license. He transfers his money with the MPESA mobile payment system. And he would like to travel to America.

Not a lot of education

His life has changed radically by the fact that one day men came to his village and determined that every family has to send a child to school.

For the Maasai did not think much of schooling. They lived on livestock and moved around. Therefore, sending a child to school was a punishment for her: "If a child went away for a while, it might never come back," says Edwin.


School as punishment?

Therefore, they had to force the Maasai. Edwin remembers well that the men came with policemen to his village to pick him up. Edwin had been selected by his father: "I thought they were trying to punish me," he says. He had to walk five kilometers every morning and five kilometers in the evening: "I was away all day."

Edwin resisted his punishment for a long time: "At some point, however, I understand that school is a good thing, that I'm really learning something here - and then I was also really good because I wanted to achieve something."

Scholarship for high school

So good that he was selected to go to high school after primary school: "My parents could only have afforded that if they had sold a bull or a sheep," says Edwin. But Edwin was lucky: He got a scholarship for gifted students.

And even more: Scholarship provider Richard Bonham hired him even as a driver and financed him the required driving license. For this he had to go to Nairobi for a few weeks - the first time to a big city: "I had a constant cough because the air was so bad," he says.

Mattresses are way too soft

Even with a different normality our daily lives Edwin has problems - for example with mattresses: "In the beginning I was completely shocked how soft they are," he reports. And even today, he prefers sleeping in the village on fur beds.

In general, he avoids trying to tell his parents what the modern world looks like: "They should not think they are in a bad way," he says.

Living between tradition and modernity

At such moments, the young Masai is reminded of how torn between his original, traditional way of life and modernity, he has also chased lions as an initiation deity, and the pride of his roots and traditions is clearly pointed out to him.

On the other hand, he does not want to go back to the traditional way of life and he has not been married: "I'm late for a Maasai," he comments with a grin.


"My children should decide for themselves how they want to live"

Perhaps this contradiction is not unusual for his generation. As you can see in the area around Mbirikani, more and more Masai are starting from the traditional way of life, settling, planting plants and opening shops.

His children, says Edwin, are said to be at home in both worlds: in any case he wants to educate them in a traditional way, but they should also go to school. "My children should be able to decide for themselves how they want to live."


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