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Teaching at Maasai Schools in Tanzania

Praktikum und Volunteering möglich
The Maasai (or Massai, Maassai, Masai) are a nomadic and pastoral people that migrated from northern Africa to East Africa in the 16th century. Today, they are the most famous tribe of East Africa, residing in the Kilimanjaro region, southern Kenya and northern Tanzania. There are around one million Maasai, evenly located between the two countries. We arrange volunteer stays and internships at Maasai schools in the West Kilimanjaro region (Siha District) and inside the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. The schools are public, following the national syllabus.

Project Details


Maasai schools in the West Kilimanjaro region (Siha District)

The Siha District is the region between Kilimanjaro and Mount Meru. The region is scarcely populated, particularly by Maasai who stay in the area mainly during the rainy seasons. During dry season, the male Maasai pastoralists move with the cattle to other areas in order to find food for them, leaving the area with only women, children and elderly Maasai.
The centre of Siha District is the village of Sanya Juu which has developed considerably since 2010, when the road from Boma Ng'ombe was paved, reducing travel time, and improving the connection by public transport (Daladala). Within half an hour, one can now reach Boma Ng'ombe, which is located half way between Arusha and Moshi, and is close to Kilimanjaro International Airport.
The public nursery, primary and secondary schools, where it is possible for you to volunteer or do a teaching internship, are located in the rural area behind the village of Sanya Juu. In Tanzania, children aged 6 to 15 years attend primary school (standard 1 to standard 7) and then continue with secondary school, form 1 and 2. The ratio of boys and girls is relatively well-balanced. The education department of Moshi Town chooses where you will be placed as an intern or volunteer.
Ekenywa Nursery and Primary School (up to Standard 2; age of the children around 8 years) is attended by around 200 children out of whom 70 are nursery school children. The school can be easily reached by the children by foot, within a few minutes from the surrounding Maasai villages. There is only one teacher at the moment at this school. Next to the school there is a house where teachers and volunteers stay, with access to electricity and water. The schools which are described hereunder can be reached by bicycle within 30-40 minutes.
Mawasiliano Primary School has around 700 children; there are around 70-90 children in one class. 80% are traditional Maasai, 20% are Wameru and Waarusha, who are Maasai who started cultivation of crops and stopped their semi-nomadic lifestyle several generations ago.
The approximately 490 students of Lekrimuni Primary School are distributed in similar class sizes.
Kandash Primary School is located near the village of the same name. There is a bigger village nearby called Karansi where one can find several grocery shops, and where there is a connection by public transport to Sanya Juu. From Kandash you can reach Karansi by motorbike taxi in 10 minutes, by bicycle in 30 minutes, or by foot maybe within around an hour. English language is taught at Kandash Primary School for all age groups.
The schools are equipped in a simple way. Generally, there are just wooden benches and a blackboard.
You are free to specify which subjects you can teach together with a Tanzanian teacher, or on your own and for which age group. All schools follow the national Tanzanian syllabus. All subjects are taught in Swahili language, which is the first foreign language for the Maasai children whose first language is Maa.
English is taught for all age levels, and it is a subject where foreign volunteers usually participate. During the breaks and after school, you can do sports with the children (typically football/soccer) or play games.

Maasai school in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area

This is a really unique volunteer activity in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area where you experience living "in the bush".
You will have to accept a lower level of living standard and we only recommend this placement to participants who are prepared to stay in a rural place with Maasai who have been little influenced by "western" life so far.
Besides the Maasai, which have been herding their cattle on the plains of the Ngorongoro for centuries, no other Tanzanians or foreigners are allowed to reside in the conservation area. The only exceptions are teachers who are teaching at the few government schools which exist inside the conservation area. As there are few Maasai becoming state-approved teachers, most of the teachers at these schools are non-Maasai Tanzanians.
Due to the complicated formalities to be allowed to reside within the Conservation Area, we only recommend this placement to individuals who stay for a minimum of 3 months, which however, can be a long time if you are used to western comforts.
As a volunteer/intern you have to be aware of what it means to teach at these Maasai schools: Water is brought through a tube into the house; and the water pump only works for half an hour every day. During this moment you will have to collect your water and store it in a bucket. The water is safe to wash yourself, but not for drinking. There is no electricity; night-time illumination will have to be done using candles or gas lamps; cooking is done using charcoal. Mobile phones however, can be charged at the house of the head teacher, where there is a solar panel.
There is no real “village” but just an assembly of several “bomas”. As the Maasai don’t have “professions“ or division of labour, there are no shops or service providers that you could make use of. As the Maasai food for a prolonged period of time probably doesn’t correspond to the ideas of nutrition of most foreigners, it means you will have to buy your entire food supplies for 2-4 weeks in Karatu Town and then store them at your house, just as the Tanzanian teachers who will live with you at the accommodation for teachers, do. By car, Karatu is around an hour’s drive. As there is no public transport, you will have to come to some arrangement with the other teachers.
The primary school is under the national syllabus and classes are taught in Swahili, which is the first foreign language for the Maasai children whose native language is “Maa”. The syllabus also includes English classes which is a subject that can be taught by foreign volunteers.

In "More Info", see a newpaper article (PDF, German language) about our participant Christina at Olbalbal Massai village.
Olbalbal Primary School has 7 classes, one for each grade, from Standard 1 (age around 6 years) to Standard 8 (age around 12 years). There are 90-130 pupils in each class. This number of children are being taught by just one teacher. 6-8 kids have to share one bench. Typically, there are around twice as many boys as girls in the classes, because many Maasai still don’t consider it necessary for girls to attend school.
The school is very basic. The library only has a few books and leaflets which are normally not handed out to students to prevent loss or damage. The doors of the toilet building have been eaten by termites; therefore a simple fence has been built to give at least minimum privacy.
Volunteers can also teach sport; there is a football (soccer) ground behind the school building. Only boys are allowed to play football; they play on their bare feet as the typical Maasai sandals which are cut from old car tires are inappropriate for playing football. The problem is that the ground is not smooth and is full of thorny plants, resulting in many injuries. Furthermore, many more children participate in the games compared to the number of players in a typical football team. As they don’t have any jerseys or sports clothes, they wear their regular school uniform which poses a challenge of distinguishing teams. The girls play their version of “basketball”; two baskets exist behind the school.
For the Non-Maasai teachers who are teaching at the school, regular stone houses have been built, of the same kind as exists elsewhere in Tanzania. Volunteers can live in a room in these houses.

Background Information About The Maasai
The Maasai are semi-nomadic people who lived under a communal land management system. Originally, the Maasai were known primarily as warriors and shepherds. The movement of livestock is based on seasonal rotation. A major source of their diet is their livestock.
They feed primarily on the meat, milk and blood from cattle, for their protein and caloric needs. The milk - blood mixture is a traditional Maasai specialty. Vegetable dishes are typically not eaten by Maasai . However, one can see Maasai who live outside the protected areas, resort to agriculture for their income, growing wheat, corn, beans, tea and potatoes . Only in periods of drought (as in the summer of 2009 ) corn flour or wheat is donated into the protected areas where traditional nourishment is preferred.
There are no chiefs or leaders for the Maasai; they are organised by the age group of males. The transitions from one age group to the next are crucial moments in the life of a Maasai man and his reputation is very dependent on the number of cattle and women. It is not uncommon for a Maasai to have 50 cattle and five women. Numerous ceremonies, including the much criticised female circumcision, mark the life if the Maasai.
The Maasai live in Kraals arranged in a circular fashion. The fence around the kraal is made of acacia thorns, which prevent lions from attacking the cattle. It is a man's responsibility to fence the kraal, while women construct the houses. Traditionally, kraals are shared by an extended family. However, due to the new land management system in the Maasai region, it is not uncommon to see a kraal occupied by a single family. The Inkajijik (maasai word for a house) are loaf-shaped and made of mud, sticks, grass, cow dung and cow's urine. Women are responsible for making the houses as well as supplying water, collecting firewood, milking cattle and cooking for the family. Warriors are in charge security while boys are responsible for herding livestock. During the drought season, both warriors and boys assume the responsibility for herding livestock. The elders are directors and advisors for day-to-day activities. Every morning before livestock leave to graze, an elder who is the head of the inkang sits on his chair and announces the schedule for everyone to follow.
The Maasai speak among themselves their own language , Maa, which belongs to the group of Nilotic languages . However, most can also communicate in Swahili, which they have learnt in schools since the 60's.
Info Box
Location: Siha District or Ngorongoro, Tanzania
Availability: All year, Start date flexible
Minimum Duration: Siha District - 1 Month; Ngorongoro - 3 Months
Maximum Duration: 12 Months
Language Requirements: English
Further Languages Of Advantage: Swahili, Maa
Teacher House
Supervision Possible: Yes
Qualification Of Supervisor: Teacher
Minimum Qualification Of Intern:
Further Contribution To Project None
Volunteering Possible: Yes
Required Qualification For Volunteer: Teacher
Further Contribution To Project: None
Professional Conduct, Do you have the "right" attitude?

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