In June 2015, the sun beat down on a rugged vehicle as it bumped its way toward the Maasai village of Ormanie near Loliondo, Tanzania. As the travelers watched the clock tick into its third hour, the village center slowly rolled into view, comprised of one tented building where sodas and other goods were traded beneath a large tree. The bomas (homesteads) were so camouflaged that the large expanse surrounding this point seemed empty, even though it is home to more than 2,400 people. Four or five women with large jerry cans in their arms gathered under the tree, watching the visitors and local leaders closely as they discussed the current situation in the community. When the topic turned to water, the village leaders stated that there was a “spring” a “short” way up the “hill”. After a slippery trek up the rocky summit, the women knelt beside a puddle and indicated that this was their water source. They removed cups from their pockets and began scooping the dark water into buckets.
When we returned to the bottom of the hill, a large group of people were waiting to discuss the future of their village. The group’s intentions were clear and consistent – they wanted a primary school for their children and clean water for their families. Without a school, many children traveled eight kilometers a day to attend the closest primary school, and hundreds more were too small to make the journey at all. By the time they were able to walk the distance, these children were often so grossly behind that they dropped out of school entirely.
This meeting was the beginning of an ongoing partnership between Global Partners for Development, the Pastoral Women’s Council (a Maasai-run nonprofit supporting education and women’s rights), local community leaders and other government officials to establish a new public primary school and deep borehole well in Ormanie Village.
Through this partnership, today Ormanie Primary School has five classrooms, teacher housing, a store, an office, a complete sanitation system, and a borehole well that serves the entire village. The school teaches kindergarten through fourth grade to 269 children who otherwise would not have received any formal education. The community has now raised funds to add two more classrooms, so the school can expand to fifth grade next year. Each year, the school will build an additional classroom until the primary school is complete and serves more than 600 children.
The Pastoral Women’s Council has also created a campaign to mobilize families to send their girls to school. In the first year, for example, there were three boys for every girl attending school. Today, the ratio is nearly even with even more girls than boys enrolled.
The Ormanie Primary School project is an incredible illustration of the power of partnership to bring enduring change to the lives of some of the most marginalized communities on earth.