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International Review of Education

, Volume 65, Issue 1, pp 19–46 | Cite as

Indigenous knowledge practices for sustainable lifelong education in pastoralist communities of Kenya

  • John Teria Ng’asikeEmail author
Original Paper

Abstract

Despite setting high hopes on education, very few pastoral nomad children in Kenya transition from primary education to secondary education. This article argues that the national Kenyan compulsory formal curriculum fails to accommodate the needs of pastoralist communities. Literacy rates are particularly low among the Turkana people, pastoralist nomads who live in the Northwest of Kenya. Low literacy has resulted in an acute shortage of local teachers, a state of affairs which exacerbates the situation. Nomadic communities like the Turkana people rarely attract national discussions on education curriculum even as their children continue to perform poorly on national examinations. The author of this article demonstrates the importance of integrating Indigenous knowledge and mother-tongue instruction in the curriculum for pastoralist schools. Based on his own research in Turkana County, he identifies two main problems besides the shortage of teachers, namely the inappropriateness of the materials used for instruction, which do not reflect the pastoralist children’s local Indigenous culture and everyday environment; and the failure to use Turkana mother tongue in early childhood education, which would support children’s literacy development, and thus serve to improve literacy rates in the community as a whole. The author presents a family literacy project he was involved in which has made a promising start in addressing these two issues. Stories were collected from parents and elders and made into storybooks, thereby creating tailor-made, meaningful instruction materials. The author expresses his hope that this article will stimulate critical discussions in Kenya which will respect the participation of pastoralist nomadic communities in making decisions about education policy.

Keywords

Indigenous education Indigenous knowledge Early childhood education Family literacy Turkana language Mother tongue Language of instruction 

Résumé

Pratiques liées au savoir autochtone dans une éducation durable tout au long de la vie pour les communautés nomades du Kenya – Malgré de grands espoirs placés dans l’éducation, très peu d’enfants nomades pastoraux au Kenya passent de l’enseignement primaire à l’enseignement secondaire. Cet article soutient que le programme d’études national officiel obligatoire du Kenya ne répond pas aux besoins des communautés pastorales. Les taux d’alphabétisme sont particulièrement bas chez les Turkana, éleveurs nomades qui vivent dans le nord-ouest du Kenya. Ce faible niveau d’alphabétisme a entraîné une grave pénurie d’enseignants locaux, ce qui aggrave la situation. Les communautés nomades comme le peuple Turkana suscitent rarement des discussions nationales sur les programmes d’enseignement, même si leurs enfants continuent d’afficher de faibles résultats aux examens nationaux. L’auteur de cet article démontre l’importance d’intégrer le savoir autochtone et l’enseignement en langue maternelle dans les programmes scolaires des écoles pastorales. Sur la base de ses propres recherches dans le comté de Turkana, il identifie deux problèmes principaux, outre la pénurie d’enseignants, à savoir l’inadéquation du matériel utilisé pour l’enseignement, qui ne reflète pas la culture indigène locale et l’environnement quotidien des enfants des communautés pastorales, et le fait que la langue maternelle turkana ne soit pas utilisée dans l’enseignement préscolaire, alors qu’il favoriserait le développement du savoir des enfants et permettrait d’améliorer les taux d’alphabétisme dans la communauté tout entière. L’auteur présente un projet d’alphabétisation familiale auquel il a participé et qui a pris un départ prometteur pour aborder ces deux questions. Des histoires ont été collectées auprès des parents et des aînés et transformées en recueils d’histoires, ce qui a permis de créer du matériel d’enseignement sur mesure et pertinent. L’auteur espère que cet article stimulera des discussions critiques au Kenya qui respecteront le fait que les communautés nomades pastorales doivent prendre part à la prise de décisions en matière de politique éducative.

Notes

Acknowledgements

Funding for the research work presented in this article was provided by the South African Institute of Distance Education (SAIDE), which I am very happy to acknowledge with appreciation. Research in Turkana mother tongue teaching is continuing with support from SAIDE, in partnership with the African Storybook project.

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Copyright information

© UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning and Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Mount Kenya UniversityNairobiKenya

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