Integrated Child Development
Some children are never given the opportunity to go to school, and many of those in school drop out before reaching the end of secondary school – especially girls. Child marriage, child pregnancy, female genital mutilation and child labor are major factors causing drop outs.
Child Rights and Advocacy
The Child Rights programme works to actualize the fundamental human dignity of all children and the urgency of ensuring their well-being and development in the Maasai Mara. It stresses that a basic quality of life should be fundamental right of all children, rather than a privilege enjoyed by a few. The programme works with both the right holders (children) and the duty bearers (parents, community members and policy implementers) to guarantee a holistic rights based approach to children’s programming. The Child Rights Programme is supporting the advancement of child rights as envisaged in United Nations Convention of the Rights of Children, African Charter on the Rights of Children, Constitution of Kenya 2010 and the Government of Kenya’s Children’s Act 2022.
The Maasai Mara Ecosystem is still struggling with various child rights violations, including early marriage, child labour, female genital mutilation (FGM) and lack of access to basic quality education. These challenges are constitently being addressed through our community dialogues, positive parentings trainings, engagement with Government officials, youth and peer mentors trainings and in schools through the child rights clubs. The child rights clubs in schools are undertaken in 10 schools reaching over 600 children. They aim to equip learners with life skills, a sense of school interconnectedness, empowerment, voice, self-esteem, confidence, improved communication, problem solving skills and leadership experience. This enables them to become advocates for themselves and for their fellow peers. This approach cements the much needed safeguarding for children both in school and at the community level.
To prevent child rights abuses and encourage the continuation of education, The Maa Trust educates community members about the laws protecting children, the consequences of child rights abuses including FGM, and reporting procedures when children’s rights are violated. The programme engages with and trains a wide range of community stakeholders, including community leaders and chiefs, pastors, cutters who perform FGM, parents, youth and children themselves. Anti FGM ambassadors from 16 different villages in the Maasai Mara plus 48 peer mentors in the Talek region have been trained to continue the preventative education and support girls facing rights violations including FGM.
The Psychosocial support services provided by The Maa Trust’s in-house child psychologist helps children with different aspects of life, including having supportive social relationships, access to basic survival needs and environmental resources, physical, intellectual, emotional and development needs.
Psychosocial support helps strengthen protective factors for the child, including their ability to identify dangerous and risky situations. It also help in the promotion of holistic child and adolescent development, including physical, emotional and social development and also strengthens the children’s resilience and their ability to cope with difficult situations.
Due to traumatic events experienced by many children in the Mara, The Maa Trust provides psychosocial support to children in the scholarship programme as well as childen in 10 primary schools across the Maasai Mara Ecosystem.
The Maa Trust also has a counselling room at the Youth Friendly Centre in Talek town where psychosocial support services are provided to the youth and community members accessing services. Over the last one year, 200 clients have accessed services at the Youth Friendly Centre (YFC).
Village-based mental health clinics are also used to reach out to children in distress at the village level. The model works by visiting distressed children who have been referred to the child psychologist through the peer mentor or child ambassadors distributed across the ecosystem as they are in need of psychosocial support.
The culmination of two years of community engagement, training and advocacy was the Maasai Mara's first Community Led Alternative Rites of Passage (CLARP) held in April 2022.
The goal of the Community Led Alternative Rites of Passage programme was to contribute to raising of awareness and collective action towards child rights and abandonment of FGM. 73 girls attended the one-week residential mentorship camp where they learned about their rights, the importance of not undergoing FGM, and how to be a Maasai women. At the end of the mentorship week, the CLARP celebration in Ilbaan village was attended by over 700 community members. During this cultural ceremony, the girls were blessed by the elders as transitioning from being girls to women, but without being cut. At the end of the celebration, all parents present stepped forwards to make a pledge to no longer circumcise any girls in their families.
The 73 girls will now receive regular follow up support and guidance and having seen the success of this first pilot, we are hoping to scale up and reach 200 girls per year from 2023 onwards.
The Maa Trust supports up to 50 children with bursaries through primary and secondary school. This programme focuses on extremely needy children who have experienced extremely traumatic childhoods and would not be able to continue with their education without financial support. For example, some girls in the programme have run away from home when they were about to be circumcised or married, others had already been married at a very young age and then ran away from their husbands. Some children come from abusive home environments or have faced child exploitation. Sponsorship completely transforms a child’s life, and costs $900 per year. We are very grateful to all of the sponsors and families giving these children a second chance at their childhood and letting the be free to be children again. If you would like to support The Maa Trust’s scholarship programme, please visit themaatrust.org/contribute
The children receiving bursaries attend conservation holiday camps funded by Great Plains Conservation Foundation three times per year developing the next generation of conservationists in the Maasai Mara.
The Maa Trust supports tertiary bursaries for youth to attend university or vocational training college. At tertiary level this includes both needs-based bursaries and bursaries for specific subjects, including construction skills.
Many children in the Maasai Mara start school late because it is too far for them to safely walk to the nearest primary school. This is especially difficult given the dangerous wildlife that the children share their homes with. The Maa Trust is focusing on supporting early childhood development (ECD) schools to enable children to start their education at the appropriate age. Access to early childhood education will improve their long-term academic performance. One reason for this is that in the Maasai Mara, children only speak Maa at home, but school classes are taught in English and Swahili. If the children do not understand the language being used, it is impossible for them to follow the subjects being taught. It is much easier to learn languages at an earlier age, and so starting school at 4-5 years old rather than 11-12 years old greatly enhances the child’s academic performance.
For those already starting school late, accelerated learning programmes support the children to move up their school classes more quickly so that they are able to get closer to their age-mates, decreasing the likelihood of them dropping out of school. 12 year old in classes together with 5 year olds quickly become disheartened as they will still be in primary school at 20 years old and so many drop out of school.
It is important for parents to know and fulfill their duties – providing children with all of their basic needs, including food, shelter, education and love. Positive parenting training teaches parents how to nurture the development of their children, the importance of their role in their children’s lives for child protection and safeguarding, and encourages them to support their children through formal education. This includes training on nutrition, appropriate child behaviors, discipline, and the importance of knowing where children are while at home.
The capacity of teachers is also built through training workshops, especially in the incorporation of IT into the classroom, and teachers are taught how to make lessons more fun, engaging and interactive.
By the Numbers
cost of supporting and educating a needy child for one year
children in scholarship programme
young girls in the Mara still underground FGM