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Maruge School, Taking A Unique Dimension To Inter-tribal Animosity And Promotion Of Peace And Tranquility.

Recent events in Kenya and the memories of the 2007-08 Post-election skirmishes have shown that no country can move forward without considering peace and tranquility in their programmes. Peace creates an enabling environment and values that promote harmonious relationships among people in the society. It is a key ingredient for sustainable development.

It was this urge for peace that motivated Sebastian Wambugu Maina to move his mission to serve the youth and the community to a very remote location of Nachu, in the border of Kiambu and Kajiado Counties.
Sebastian, who works for Youth Action For Rural Development (YARD), a community organisation that works in both Kiambu and Murang’a counties, and the founder of Maruge School Nachu was triggered by the unfortunate story of the Late Kimani Maruge to initiate a permanent solution to promoting peace and tranquility among the different peoples of Kenya.

Maruge’s anguish sowed the seeds of the idea to bring change in Sebastian by working with young people and the community to bring peace amongst different ethnic communities through holistic education.
Maruge holds the Guinness World Record for being the oldest person to start primary school after he enrolled in the first grade on January 12, 2004 at the age of 84. He attended Kapkenduiywo Primary School in Eldoret.  

Later, during the 2007-2008 post-election violence, his property was stolen, a factor that made him contemplate quitting school. During early 2008 he lived in a refugee camp but eventually succumbed to stomach cancer on August 14, 2009, at the Kenyatta National Hospital.

“The name Maruge came as a result of the motivation the Late Maruge had. He motivated so many children and so many people who went back to school in search for education. I thought that the best gift I would give him in return was to start a school in his honour. We also looked at what Maruge could mean to us and especially in this area which is more of a dry land that borders Kajiado. Maruge basically to us means motivation for reaching our dreams,” said Sebastian.

In 2012, through the support of AMISTAD Foundation in USA and the local community, they were able to acquire a 5-Acre piece of land where they put up the school which now boasts of an enrolment of 62 kids from the pre-school to STD 5, seven teachers and 2 non-teaching staff.
The school handles ethno-politan children from a very poor background who otherwise would not have had a chance to join school due to the terrain and the unavailability of schools in the area.

“Some of these learners walk over 10km from as far as the Kajiado border to access this facility since there is none in the area. We do make arrangements to have them enjoy a cup of fortified porridge, which is in entirety a complete diet,” he said.

Through his engagement with YARD, they have come up with different forms of leadership programmes for the youth and in this particular project, the teachers have been able to serve the community, thus becoming their own leaders through stewardship.

As regards to the new wave of threats to national peace and stability and intertribal animosity, Maruge school has taken an unusual dimension to other people’s approach by ensuring that they bring to one institution, children from different ethnicity to learn together and interact. To promote national cohesion, the school has ensured that they gather teachers from different ethnic backgrounds.

They also have it to themselves to ensure that they provide a holistic learning environment where they try as much as possible to touch all aspects of human life. They have also used both formal and the informal learning activities and experiences to address the suspicions, practices and beliefs of the different communities towards each other.

“My initial motivation when I began Maruge School was to give equal opportunities to all children to get access to education. We value the link between education and development in contemporary society as essential in the preparation of everyone both for their self-sustenance and for functional participation in grappling effectively with the challenges of social, economic, political and technological development of their respective societies. The school has children from many ethnic background with teachers from a mixture of tribes,” said Sebastian.

They have started a goats and chicken project called ‘Kidz for Kids Maruge’ to promote peace and education between the two main communities in the area (Kikuyu and Maasai). These animals are quite symbolic to the two communities, thus the need to use them to resolve conflicts that occasionally occur between them.

“We are using the children to take care of them so that we instill the belief in our pupils that they can actually raise these animals on their own without necessarily stealing from other as has been the norm previously.”

The school has a community library that serves not only their pupils but also students from other schools including adult learners who come to read about farming and animal husbandry.

The community has been supporting the school through various ways. Some of the books in the library were contributed by some members of this society. They have also donated goats and chicken for the school’s agriculture project that they use to learn how to take care of the animals.

The school’s head-teacher Madam Lilian Wafula talked of how the school had embarked on caring for the environment, especially considering the fact that the area is relatively dry. They have established a tree garden where every child has a tree to take care of.

“Each tree here is symbolic. We have an orange tree for our president. We chose an orange tree because when it matures it bears fruits. And that is what we see of our president, he bears the fruits of the nation that we enjoy,” said Lilian.

Each tree has been planted to commemorate the birthday of the nation’s dignitaries and friends who support the school in any way. There was a tree named after Kigumo MP Jamleck Kamau and also another one named after Karen Kotoske, the founder of AMISTAD International.

Once in a month, they usually celebrate a school environmental day where all the pupils participate in taking care of the environment. During that day, the pupils remember the people under which the trees were planted.

However, it is not all that rosy in the school for they face quite a number of challenges.

First, the school is not connected to the national grid, a factor that has been hindering them to introduce digital learning to their learners. The lack of electricity has also posed challenges in terms of security since they have to live in the dark when dusk strikes. It is also limiting their ability to learn in the evenings.

Plans are also in the pipeline to put up a boarding facility so as to tackle the challenge of young children who walk for very long distances to school and back as well as introducing evening remedial lessons that will support those who had various challenges due to their backgrounds.

This dream cannot materialise unless the school is connected to electricity and water. They are in dire need of either a borehole or any other source of water that will go a long way in supporting the school’s day to day activities.

“We also have challenges in transport. Some of our pupils who are as young as 5 years walk for quite a long distance to school since there are no schools nearby,” said the headteacher.

The school is therefore appealing to the area MP Kimani Ichungwa, the Governor of Kiambu William Kabogo and any other well-wishers who would wish to come on board to do so and help promote peace and tranquility as they also empower the community through education.

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