Maasai Oral Histories
The Maasai Oral Histories Project aims to record and archive Maasai oral histories, myths, rituals, stories, laws, and beliefs, which are traditionally passed on by senior elders.
Mara Rianta Primary School
Arthur Phipps
01/10/2005, Mara Rianta, Kenya

Maasai Oral Histories Project
Field Journal, January 10, 2005
By Arthur Phipps

Didn't need to set my alarm clock this morning; woke to the roar of lion in the distance! Had breakfast and traveled over beautiful but rugged countryside that only a four-wheel drive could maneuver to reach the Mara Rianta primary school.

Today we recorded the stories of Mumia Ole Liaram, an elder from the local village. We needed a good team of volunteers to make this event happen.

Let me digress for a moment. For those of you who are following this project, let me encourage you be a volunteer. You will be able to help others, participate in exciting work, interact with very interesting people, and see a world very different than the one you live in!

The Mara Rianta school is a simple 25 by 25 foot room with wooden benches, no air conditioning, two very small lights (most of the light comes from five windows), and the blackboard is painted on the plastered walls. The 42 students, all boys in this class, sit 3 to 4 on wooden benches. A narrow board serves as their desk. And yes, they carve their initials into the desks.

These Maasai children are taught in Swahili from the first grade on, even though their native language is Maa. We feel this will detract from their culture in the years to come. To get to the Mara Rianta primary school each day, the children from age 6, walk three to five kilometers across very rugged terrain. Although the conditions are primitive by our standards, they receive a good education through grade 8, and most can then go on to a high school in a distant city.

Today the elder, Mumia Ole Liaram, who is 75 years old, chooses to make his points by telling stories from the past. He is very animated and is an excellent storyteller. Remember, in the land of the Maasai, there is little or no television, so story telling is a way to spend the evening and pass on knowledge. Ole Liaram has a good sense of history and humor.

His three stories held the children's attention while he delivered a sense of Maasai history along with some of life's basic lessons:
Take care of yourselves and get a good education.

Listen to your elders. They have years of experiences. Learn from them.

Believe in your sons even if you disagree with the path they have chosen.

Women are very capable and can be strong in difficult situations.