Have you have seen the movie “Pay It Forward” Justus hasn’t, yet here is an amazing young man who has no religion, but believes there is a God who is helping him in his desire, and he surely has God in his heart. As I hear his story and write it down I know there is hope for Kenya and Africa.
He is 26 years old, has a wife he loves, (he went against Maasai tradition by refusing three wives picked for him), a 14 month old son and supports his family and I mean wider family, with food, clothes and medicine when required. He works at the Wildebeest Eco Camp for two months at a time, longer when they are busy and then goes home for two weeks to the Maasai Mara. He earns $6 a day and is apart from his family because there is no affordable accommodation in Nairobi, but he still managed to sponsor a girl from his village through high school and desires to help her attend college and be an example for the village and all Maasai people. Anyway let me write you his story as he tells it.
My name is Justus Moitalel Letoluo, Justus is my English name, Moitalel (pronounced Mo-lat-tel) is my Maasai name and Letoluo (pronounced Let-o-lo) is my family name and I am from the Maasai Mara which is quite famous in the world because of its wildlife migration, the wild beasts coming each year from the Serengeti to the Maasai Mara, so that’s where I come from, and that’s my where my family is.
I grew up and come from a family, which was a very big family and my grandfather is now about 74 years old. My father has got one wife, but recently he married another. I come from a family, who was poor not because they will too, but they depend on animals, they used to have cows, goats and sheep so many years ago, but because of the continuous drought the cows become less and less.
When I grew up I joined a primary school, which is called Kisher-Moruak Primary School that’s where I got my basic education, I went there for eight years. We had a have a long walk to school, 10k or because of the big well-being (had surplus money, not poor) family they can pay for boarding. I started there in 1993 and finished grade eight in 2001, so normally it takes eight years in primary school here in Kenya and it is cheaper to take, but after that we have four years of high school.
When I finished grade eight my family wasn’t well-being and I don’t blame them, they had no job, they weren’t learn-d and they only depended on animals so they wished me to go to school, but they not have the resources money wise to pay the school, but lucky enough just after my primary school there was a councillor that my parents knew and he was representing the area and then he saw me as a bright boy and he say, ok for four years I’ll pay me for high school. That’s when I joined Moi High School, Nai Kaira. for four years I was quite lucky to finish it and that I passed the exam.
Then after that I didn’t know where to go, but the community decided to give me to teach their children, the kinder garden children, at the same primary school where I went for two years because I have know where to go and no one to take me to another job, so I teach them, but I was not a trained teacher and just because I was learn-d, they trusted me and everyone new me. So you can teach instead of the looking after the cattle, normal Maasai life is to look after animals, we depend on cows, goats and sheep. So I teach there for two and half years and then again I came across some visitors which came just because the school was right beside the road and the tourists visiting the Mara just sometimes come in the school and give pens to the children and books.
This is where I met some Danish people and I talked to them, they saw me like a bright boy and they went around the school and then later on I took them to the bush for a bush walk and they saw a lot of the animals and in that connection they asked me if I was a trained teacher, I was not a trained teacher I was doing this because I had nowhere else to go they asked me if I wanted to study more, I say yes and then they connected me with a company who does safari which is Wildebeest,.(which is where he works now).
One day I came to find a colleague and when I came my colleague who was working here at this camp and I meet the owners of this camp which are from Australia, Alan and Lynita. When I talked to them I was so surprised, they just called my name Justus, I asked them where did you get my name and they said it was a family a Danish family who came on safari to the Maasai Mara and they said you are so bright and wanted an education. I say yes I met them but now I can’t remember their names.
So they said why did you come to Nairobi I just said to find a colleague, they asked me what I wanted to study and I said I wanted to be a safari guide because I saw job opportunity on the Maasai Mara, because there are lodges and camps, but then if I go around without any papers they wouldn’t help me so they said ok stay in this place of ours, we pay the college, but you work and sleep here. I said ok, because I had no alternative to go and do at home so I actual stayed one and a half years studying and tour guiding and it was a hard year, but I finally made it and I was top in my class and got my diploma and also studied a certificate in Spanish and speak a little Spanish. So after the college they find I was best and saw my papers and they were going to Australia for holidays and said because we have paid the school, you are really bright and have shown hard work we can pay your ticket, so I have been to Australia, we went there and they showed me around but just as a holiday I did nothing it was different. When I come back they give me a general job, I don’t have a specific job here.
After that I had (knew) a girl, which she went to the same primary school as me and she is quite bright in return I was very happy and my parents were really happy when I told them this tale I went through until I succeed therefore I keep telling them that I wanted to study, but they do not answer. Our family do not have any form of resources to pay, but they just keep quiet. They will me to go, they are willing for me to go, but they can’t afford it. This girl finish grade eight and she got 250 marks, which she passed the exam, because of poverty the girls are not considered in the Maasai society, they want them to get married and have children but I told them it would be so nice if we can take this girl to school to study because her future would be bright.
Actually the family who wanted to marry her they immediately come,( they wanted her to marry him) when they heard she finished grade 8 but I say no, I was in Nairobi studying they have already given one cow to our family, they wanted to marry her off, I make a phone call and I say if you happen to giving that girl out someone will be arrested, I say no, she is bright I will send the teachers to have anyone arrested who is trying to arrange a marriage for her.
Then from on when I started working I used my salary to take her to form 1, that’s now High School, it was quite challenging to pay the high school with the little salary I get here and to look after the family, but I decided no. Where I come from I cannot really believe how far I have come terms in education in which no one in our community believed that someone from a poor family like me could do it. So I say develop more roots so show that God is able, something really will happen without anybody knowing.
Maasai tradition is quite hard to understand, especially for your western people, its tradition is still very strong and what it used to be is that a girl when she is fourteen she gets circumcised and after healing for maybe six months the elders arrange the marriage for her. The girl do not know who is husband, but the father will finally tell her we are giving you to another family for marriage, that is the tradition how it is. So the purpose of girls normally it is like duties, cleaning the house, cooking for the family and beget children, collecting firewood, fetching water from the river in the wet season and sometimes up to 15km away during the dry, 20lts carried on their backs, household responsibility They do not consider girls they are less than the boy, actually at this stage lots of boys go to school, but the girl’s education is still very, very low, because they do not think a girl can do as much as the boy, they can’t do the same thing, they are regardless just like the job at home.
At the moment some families that have gone far have seen the civilisation, are taking their girls to school to achieve the same thing, that’s why I took the step, I didn’t know whether the girl would complete the school or not, but I just wanted her to try. I didn’t know whether I keep this job or she will finish.
The moment I studied it was just amazing, it went smoothly, though at some point there are challenges, like teachers just sending the girl home because the school had no fee balance. I did the best I can, but she get C- grade, I am also very happy and believe balance. Now they know actually and never oppose something like education, they can feel it in the family and I paid the school fees for the girl, now they feel it. I want to in future to see the records, there is a mark there actually, not because of my family, its just because of how it came all about. I want to keep a track record for the future and its only that I not have much to offer, especially even if I could find a way to sponsor mainly Maasai girls so that in future we will have a record, memory or history.
I hope if God wished the one I am trying to find a way forward for her education, we have a life history to tell and I am not only talking this story to you but whenever I get friends and even at home explain how I did get on. Some villagers still not believe now how far I have come in education, in spite the fact that the family was not well-being, I wanting to if I can get opportunities or something to help the Maasai children to come out from darkness and then can see the light.
Now Rose has passed her exam in November she is at home and helps at the primary school. I have asked her what careers she would like to, do not that I have money to pay, but I can still face as many challenges as I can so that she can achieve that step. She said she wanted to do teaching and become a teacher and I tried to suggest because it’s like nurse what other courses like pharmacy she didn’t want to, I keep asking her from when the results came out in January until now. She say no I want to go to teaching, I then say OK let’s see what we can do.
So when I go home this time I am going to the teachers college and see how we get on with this, I don’t know whether she will complete, but I have trust in me that I will do something for her. We have a few teachers here from well-being families, if Rose can achieve the diploma the government will employ her to teach on Maasai land, normally close to where she come from and pass her story on to friends so it will not only be kept in me, that will expand it to other people.
I have always wanted since I have finished this diploma to go to university, now to do a degree in Tourism and Wildlife Management but this is now where life becomes very hard indeed I don’t know whether I am doing many things (jobs/work) or how to arrange myself, but it’s just challenging me very very much. I have the family on the side because I have to look after my parents, sister, that girl she is studying I just got married one and half years ago, and now I have a child, a boy who is 1 year and four months old, I am looking after all the family and I want to go further for education, but I find it stressful to myself. I have few colleagues which went further and they finished their degree, I don’t know whether have done the wrong thing, but traditionally you have to look after your people otherwise they will suffer and in my family there is no other son, everything is all up on me. If they have to go to hospital, to have clothes for them, to study or I wanted to do the degree, so that I can work in the Maasai Mara National Park, teach people things about wildlife.
It is quite challenging, because education here is very expensive here and is a lot of money and then if will not have gone this far and for the university costs is just very expensive, then if I sell (keep) this salary it won’t help me to go to university even if I save it for years. Now I can do a three year course because I already have a diploma.
Now I wish to be with my family, if I go down there the village is very remote. The houses are made of cow dung and sticks in the village, there I will be just looking after the goats which will not sustain me it may only provide food, in terms of education for the family it won’t help, we will not go any further forward so the reason why I am working here is for the family to benefit, I just work out so I can provide this for family in terms of food clothing. We don’t even have good houses here, but at the moment I am just working to provide them food according to what I get, it’s not even enough, you can’t believe it, but it will make it worse if I go home and stay with the family. I am loosing 90% of not being with the family just because of the poverty that is there, it will be so sad to lose a chance to go to school, then the people in the village will not get any food, even not talk about anything else.
In some villages, I promise you in some villages, just survive one day to one day and tomorrow none, so it would be very distressing to me to stay there when I got this chance to study. I feel like it will be so bad without helping them, that’s why I spend all my time away, I stay here a full 2.5 full months without seeing my family. I use the phone to communicate or if someone is sick, I send money to them to go to the hospital, so it’s a challenging moment for me, but so far where God have helped me so much in terms of education. Now some neighbours really appreciate me and respect me, but in my mind I don’t really need to be respected, but I just need them to know its God plan, its not my plan, my energy, but still it is an opportunity from God, but I don’t know how it comes.
I can now see the family in terms of food not being very bad, they know I am working. Now I feel like I am stuck after this education, I don’t think I will progress more according to, but the fee for three years. Here (work) is normal, nothing is changing, I’m not developing career more because these, my employers just want to keep me here in the camp. Of which I wanted to get exposed to the field, but that opportunity is not really coming, so well it helped me come out from darkness. I feel like I am stuck, I have no direction the only thing I am moving forward for is this girl (all girls) education because I get paid here which is going on, but everything else is I feel like no change no nothing. Justus
Justus’s desire is to carry on his education and attend university to get a degree in Tourism and Wildlife Management. He can study from his home town and attend Naroke University part time, the nearest big town to his village when required, as long as he has some sort of income. He is fearful of leaving a job with a wage and so feels stuck. I have spoken with him about how God has been with him so far and to pray and have faith that God loves him more than he knows, then his desire will grow and all will be his if it is in harmony with God’s love.
He can study from home and I feel he can be a part time safari guide (apprentice) which will allow him to support his family, he only has to choose to grow his faith in God and himself. I asked him what the fees are for when he goes to university (550,000kes/$7000 over the four years, $34 a week), he smiled and laughed and said he doesn’t know whether he will be able to go. I smiled back at him and said it looks like I have more faith than you at the moment. He said he will talk more to God and grow his faith.
He has it within him to see equality in all aspects of life for the Maasai and he sees education as a focal point as it is readily noticeable by the villagers. He is against the circumcision of girls and has said he would never allow his daughter to be, again education is the key.
This girl is called Rose; she is 19 and is from a local family and has a strong desire to teach. If she can do the four years at college and become a teacher she will be paid by the government to teach in her village. Rose’s school fees over two years including board is 200,000kes ($24 per week). and passing her story on, encouraging other girls on the Mara to desire educarion.
Justus has told me that the government have allocated an area for a school and the village has started to build one, but have no more money at present. When completed the kinder and primary children can be taught there and so the walking or boarding of children away from their families will stop. And more importantly the girls will be educated as well as the boys because at the moment boys have priority.
Justus spoke of someone being arrested if Rose was married off. Girls are protected if they desire it and teachers are instrumental in that process, but of course the girl has to go against the family unless they have a someone like Justus who will stand up for them.
Justus has spoken to me about a local family who are Christian and have introduced Christianity to some of the village. This has caused some friction as the Christian half is often challenging tradition and judging the other half for not changing. They are not at war, but as Justus said, tradition can change, but the process has to be honored with individual choices.
We also plan to visit Justus in his village on the Maasai Mara and stay a few days. Meet his family and Rose. He has offered to take us on a safari of the Maasai Mara and the Serengeti, how good is that. As he hears God’s truth, he is asking us to share it with the people who choose to listen in his village.
For myself I have a desire to help Justus achieve his goals, I didn’t know in what direction to assist him when I started writing this, but I now know, I will sponsor Rose and Justus through college and university. What I can deduce so far is that the village has started to build a hut for a school building, but traditionally they have thatched roofs. If I can also help build part of the school with a tin roof to catch water, the village women won’t have to walk so many kilometers. I am investigating the cost of materials and will know more after my visit to his village. Justus has said the total area the government have allocated to the village for the school is 10 acres, perfect for the school and the children to learn about vegetation, growing their own food, to connect to the land in a different way and to rely on God’s providence.