By Aileen Kanga Mugo
Suguta Mar Mar Primary School is school situated in Samburu Central Sub-County. It has a population of 1200 pupils. This sub-county is mainly inhabited by the Samburu, the Turkana and the Pokot—communities that lead a nomadic way of life.
These pastoral communities often experience conflicts related to livestock theft and scramble for control of pasture and water points. These conflicts most of the times degenerate into conflict, aggravated by the presence of small arms. The quest to recover stolen animals have led to a cycle of attacks and counter-attacks— this has become a common phenomenon among these communities. Consequently, schools in the region face a myriad of challenges ranging from disruption of learning, high levels of absenteeism and school drop-out among boys of Moran (Warrior) age occasioned by the need to pursue stolen livestock. Often, the attempts to guard or recover animals leads to the same Morans who ought to be in school end up being killed. The girls also are not spared as they are culturally forced into early marriages. Customarily, when a boy is about 15 years old he is tasked with the responsibility of herding livestock and ensuring the safety of the community. As such, the boy is treated as an adult hence can marry at that age. Negative ethnicity is another vice that arises among pupils owing to inter-ethnic conflicts and perceiving the ethnic-other as adversaries. This is a vice that cascades from the adults down to the children—an act that led to the drastic reduction of pupils from Pokot community particularly in Suguta Mar Mar Primary School.
When Shalom Center for Conflict Resolution and Reconciliation (SCCRR) started educating us on peace matters in the year 2015, I felt that this was the moment to bring change even in Suguta Mar Mar Primary School. Inspired by the urge to share the conflict management knowledge and skills learnt in the Shalom workshops, I constituted Suguta Mar Mar Peace Club in October 2015. The desire to be in a society where peace prevails and that learning is not affected was a great impetus for me to start the club. My fellow teachers and I started training 100 pupils drawn from standard 5 to 8 in the first meeting. Since then, the peace club has maintained 60 pupils who are actively engaged in peace activities in the school. The activities of the club have been running smoothly, great appreciation to Shalom Center for providing a school peace manual that has been instrumental in guiding the activities of the club.
Since the club was instituted, Suguta Mar Mar Primary School has experienced tremendous behavioral change among pupils. There has been a positive change in the relationship among pupils. Cases of negative ethnicity characterized by stereotypical name-calling among students have significantly plummeted. Such activities as educating other pupils on peacemaking, conducting peer counselling, participating in clean-up activities within and outside school as well as composing and singing (or reciting) songs and poems advocating for peace have had a positive impact in the school. Testimonies from parents during school functions about the pupils relaying the message of peace in their homes have reached the school. This is a great motivation for us to carry on with peace activities.
The good relationship created between the school, the community, religious institutions and SCCRR has helped us improve in peacemaking as well as in academic performance. Academically, one member emerged top in Samburu County with 410 marks out of the possible 500 in the 2016 KCPE examinations. Close to 30 other students scored between 350 and 400 marks. This was impressive! This is partly attributed to the efforts of Shalom Center for not only imparting knowledge on peacebuilding in us but also through supplying textbooks, writing materials, geometrical sets among other academic enablers.
We thank all the stakeholders who have helped us become who we are today. May God bless SCCRR for their support and effort towards restoring harmony among communities living in Suguta Mar Mar. Thank you very much.
Ms. Aileen Kanga Mugo is Patron of the Peace Club, Suguta Mar Mar Primary School; Samburu County.