This report comes from James Ngundi, doctoral student in the social foundations of education program.
As our little plane descended into the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy last June, the green vegetation around Mount Kenya gave way to a blanket of brown tropical grass below us.
After landing, Carol Anne Spreen, assistant professor in the social foundations of education program; Clair Terni, an anthropology student; and I gathered our luggage. As a Toyota Land Cruiser stopped near us, Suzanna Rouse, a Charlottesville conservationist who now lives in the Kenyan conservancy, slid out from the driver’s seat to greet us. A young man wearing traditional Maasai clothing and carrying a wooden club, loaded our luggage into the back of the Cruiser, aided by two men in green uniforms.
We rode back with Rouse and friends to her guesthouse, where we were based during our visit. Our major objective was to visit communities and schools in the region and to learn what interested faculty and students from across the University of Virginia could do to help. Besides the community- based conservancies, we visited two primary schools to see what teachers were experiencing and what their most pressing needs were.
It became clear to us that education will be the key piece of the puzzle in dealing with the myriad environmental and social challenges facing the Samburu, Somali, Rendille, and other indigenous tribes in this region. Not only are they facing a fast-deteriorating environment ravaged by traditional grazing practices and drought, but they need models for teaching poor, nomadic, pastoral youths and for better teacher professional development.
We seek to establish partnerships with local communities, leaders, and relevant agencies in northern Kenya and work collaboratively with stakeholders in identifying the most pressing concerns from local perspectives. U.Va. students will work with students from local institutions to conduct research and design projects and programs that address the issues.
By the end of the week, we all felt our trip was successful. We established great initial contacts, which we hope will lead to valuable partnerships with the Kenyan people.