Reaching Pastoralists with Formal Education A Distance-Learning Strategy for Kenya

By David Siele, Jeremy Swift, Saverio Krätli

Demand for education among pastoralists, including children actively involved in production, is rapidly increasing. Education is seen by impoverished households as a way out of poverty, and by the households actively involved in pastoral production as a way to support their production system in an increasingly globalised world.

Education systems are failing to respond to this shift in demand, and remain oriented towards ‘educating pastoral children out of pastoralism.’ The model used everywhere is that of a teacher in front of a class, a model that effectively excludes the children directly involved in pastoral production. Where pastoral families adapt to this limited service, it is normally by ‘giving’ some children for formal education and keeping others to run the family business. In this way, productive households have to make a damaging trade-off between accessing formal education (through a school system that diverts children away from the pastoral economy) and maintaining the family business (through the specialist work and learning that takes place within the household and camp). Such learning is essential if the child is to acquire the knowledge about and membership of the complex social networks of nomad life which is a condition of success as an adult producer. 

Educational delivery systems tried so far – boarding schools, mobile schools, special uses of sedentary schools – have not successfully resolved this trade-off. Experiments are currently under way in Kenya to develop a distance learning system (using a combination of radio programmes, mobile tutors, and audio & print materials), aimed at broadcasting a full primary curriculum including literacy to individual children and their families directly at the camps. The aim is to enable children to acquire a modern education and thus to become more effective producers, as well as to compete with other Kenyan children if necessary in the world outside pastoralism.

File: David Siele.pdf