Global Partners, December 2023

Written by Lee S. Polansky, Senior Director of Executive Initiatives and Special Projects | Published: December 11, 2023

Nasaruni Academy for Maasai Girls

Population Connection supports Nasaruni Academy in Kenya, helping to provide educational scholarships for students and job training for local women. We know that having an education helps girls and women live empowered lives, which enables them to have smaller families and better provide for each of their children.

Nasaruni Academy students with Founder Alice Sayo (Photo courtesy of Nasaruni Academy)

Nasaruni Academy for Maasai Girls is located in Narok County, Kenya. Founded in 2013 by Maasai educator Alice Sayo and her husband, Moses, the boarding school is popular, with girls clamoring for an education there.

What makes Nasaruni so special? We decided to find out by going to the source, the students themselves. The three students profiled below are all from Kajiado County, which borders Narok County to the east. By way of background, according to Kenya’s Centre for the Study of Adolescence, 7 in 10 primary school-aged children in Kajiado County are enrolled in primary school, while only a quarter of adolescents are enrolled in secondary school. Narok and Kajiado Counties have two of the highest percentages in the country of teens who have ever been pregnant, at 28% and 22%, respectively.

Note: Some of the girls’ quotes have been lightly edited for clarity, and their names have been changed to protect their privacy.

Let’s first hear from Karen, who is 16 and describes her home village as “the remotest part of Kajiado.” According to Karen, the inhabitants are “typical Maasai” and “mostly traditional.” Karen’s mother had nine children; including those of her father’s other wives, there were 18 children in all. Karen explains that her mother’s firstborn was a girl, who never attended school, married “so very young,” and had four children. Several of Karen’s other siblings have been afforded an education, however, and two of them are even in college.

Karen tells us, “I am in my first year at Nasaruni. I love classes and learn many things at this school.” Karen’s favorite subject is biology; after college, she’d like to be a doctor or a biology teacher.

Next up is Grace, also 16, who is one of eight children. Grace says she loves the classes, the church fellowship, and the clubs at Nasaruni. She especially enjoys geography, “because I want to know more about the Earth.” Grace hopes to attend college, adding, “When I grow up, I would like to be a geography teacher.”

Namnyak is 15 and has two brothers and seven sisters. While her brothers were educated, she says, “my father didn’t want to educate his girl children,” so three of Namnyak’s older sisters “got married earlier.” Namnyak learned about Nasaruni from her friend, who is a student there and told her that it is “the best school.” Later in life, Namnyak’s father softened his views and agreed that she and some of her younger sisters could attend school.

Namnyak is painfully honest about her family’s status, saying, “I come from a very humble background. My father has two wives. We live a very low living standard. There is not even enough food. We are known in the village as a poorer family.” Namnyak explains that her father used to have 10 sheep and two cows and that he sold all of them in order to send her to secondary school.

Namnyak clearly loves school, telling us, “I like being at Nasaruni because of the good teachers and good environment. At Nasaruni, there are the best teachers, who are caring and loving. They also teach well and provide quality education.” Namnyak’s favorite classes are math, history, and computer, because they are her best subjects. “I usually score good grades.”

Learn more about Nasaruni Academy here.

High school students dressed for a dance performance
(Photo courtesy of Nasaruni Academy)