"I see the value of education as something that makes me grow up and mature"

A report about the young Maasai Rechor Ismail.

Our adorable Maasai Rechor Ismail was born on October 5, 2006 here in the Iringa region and comes from a Maasai family, a world renowned tribe here in East Africa. She is now 16 years old and currently lives only with her mother Pasiando and her neighbors, after her mother separated from her father. However, her family also forced her and her mother to move to another area after previously living together as a family with her father, mother and children.

Rechor is the youngest of five children in a family with a father and a mother. She comes from the most remote villages in the village of Ilambilole in the Iringa Rural District. She currently attends second grade at St. James Kilolo Sec School in the Iringa Region. In an interview, Rechor commented as follows: “I consider education to be something invaluable that allows me to mature and age.”

Her dream is to change attitudes about education for girls in her family by becoming the first girl to achieve her goal of an education in her family. Although education is compulsory in Tanzania, there are still communities that believe it is reserved only for boys. I had these thoughts and feelings when I met Rechor at St. James Sec School earlier this month. In a community where early marriage is strongly entrenched, her story is an important testimony to the potential empowerment of Maasai girls in terms of education.

In Rechor’s community, difficulties for girls to attend school are linked to early marriage. After seventh grade in a public school 7 km from their village, some families refuse to send their girls to school because it is not considered a good investment. Since educated girls benefit their husbands’ families after marriage, but not the Maasai community, priority is given to the education of boys.

Rechor is the youngest child in a family of five, as she told me in our brief interview. At a young age, she expressed a desire to go to school and learn. School fees and the cost of school supplies were high, so her parents sold three goats to give her the opportunity to study at Star Primary with support from SCHULBANK.

At that time, she led a happy life and dreamed of one day becoming a professional nurse. She cherished this career aspiration after repeatedly observing nurses when she went to the hospital with her mother. This seemed like a good thing to her. Tragically, her parents separated when she was still in sixth grade at Star Primary School in 2020. She then moved in with her mother in a nearby area, as her mother was expelled from her original home and environment by the clan at that time.

The separation of her parents upset her emotionally. SCHULBANK helped her refocus on her studies and gain confidence in her future. “The SCHULBANK office advised and coached me so I wouldn’t give up,” she reported.

This lifestyle was very challenging for her, as she had difficulty accessing basic needs. “I was in seventh grade and had lost hope of continuing my schooling due to the high cost of school supplies and rising prices for everything,” she explained. In a community where early marriages for girls are common, she felt hopeless, with no means to influence her situation for the better.

Rechor shares with me that it is important to remember that in her Maasai village, where Rechor is from, two out of ten girls are still involved in early marriages and have little access to education. On the other hand, others also say that there is no point for them to go to school. For them, sending girls to school is pointless.

Thanks to SCHULBANK’s help, she now understands that girls are capable of achieving many things and that they just need an opportunity, an open door, to unleash their potential. She firmly believes that with changed mindsets, the future will be full of hope for many girls in her society.

For me, Rechor is a beacon of hope for her Maasai community and for many others who still find themselves without hope for the future.

When people say to Rechor that studying has no benefit, she replies on the contrary that one can benefit the community by sharing and spreading knowledge. In their view, a lack of education is toxic to the community, especially for girls who know nothing about their rights. Young girls should have the right to attend school. Rechor explains, “More knowledge could reduce problems like early marriage and female genital mutilation.”

Their story is one of many in very rural communities. And as much as we have progressed as a society as a whole, we must not forget that some are struggling for basic needs and rights. The fight to empower girls and women is far from over. It is therefore the responsibility of society as a whole to unite and provide or support platforms and organizations that have already been established with this goal in mind, in order to create awareness and drive this agenda forward.

In the results of her studies for the second semester of the first class of 2022, she earned a B grade with an overall average of 74% out of 100%. Rechor is a very quiet and attentive student, and at school her classmates called her “Ambulance” because she likes to help others when they are sick by washing their clothes and giving them food.

In November 2023, Rechor will take her second grade national exams, along with all other second grade students across Tanzania.

Note: This information was compiled with the great help of the leader of Ilambilole village, Mr. Samwel Sanga, who largely put me in touch with Rechor’s mother and sent me important photos from the village.

All the best for Rechor and her future dreams….

Edgar Mgembe
Program Manager SCHULBANK e.V.