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Tuesday, 02 March 2010
When it came to fulfilling the Geography learning objective of
studying the effects of tourism on the Maasai tribe, Year 9 girls
at Bolton School cut to the chase and asked them direct.
Through a Skype link-up using a Vodafone USB dongle and the
Tanzanian mobile phone network, 50 girls were given the chance to
talk directly to Maasai tribespeople, who were sitting under a tree
on the plains of Tanzania.
The two settings could not have been more contrasted.
Settled under a tree to avoid the midday sun and outside a boma, a
traditional Maasai home made of muddung and sticks, Babu, Nai, Zac,
Aisha, Alex, Aneth and Nambeya, viewed the girls on a laptop
resting on a bucket of water, whilst the excited Year 9 pupils
watched the East Africans on a large screen in a classroom at
The Maasai group represented a variety of occupations, from a
traditional jewellery-maker to a tour guide to teachers and
students. The forty minutes questions and answers session
worked well as the two groups learnt more about each others
culture. The Maasai did not feel that tourism was detrimental
to their lives. They were very accepting of tourism and felt
the world was now "a little village"; they were happy to have their
photographs taken - as long as they were asked first. In
fact, the problem for this tribe from rural Meserani in Northern
Tanzania was that not enough tourists were visiting their
village. The girls also asked questions about what they ate
and what they wore. In return the Maasai wanted to know what
food the girls liked, why European tourists tend to always visit
Africa through organised tour companies and don't go direct to the
villages and how they got money to travel to Africa?
Maddie Bewlay, aged 13, summed up the thoughts of the class when
she said: "it was wonderful to talk directly with the Maasai and
they were really friendly. Seeing their village and the
surroundings meant so much more than reading about it in a book or
looking at photos. They had good English skills and it was a
very interesting discussion - it was a unique experience and
I felt very lucky to be talking to them."
The link-up came about through the School's connection with
LivLife, a charity which has been set up by two old boys of the
school, Max Griffiths and Sam Yates. Their
concept is one of providing free education centres in villages in
Tanzania which give both adults and children the skills needed to
live their lives free from poverty and by their own culture. The
idea stemmed from a research project that they undertook whilst at
university into the effect of tourism on the Maasai. The
Maasai were becoming marginalised by the tourist industry as,
although it took much of their land, they didn't have the skills to
find work in tourism. They asked Sam and Max for help and the first
LivLife Centre at Meserani was built in 2005. They are now looking
to build others having had similar requests from other
villages. This expansion is achievable thanks to a grant from
the Vodafone's World of Difference programme which covers the
salary and expenses of Max, currently the sole employee of
Speaking from Africa, Max Griffiths said: "The guys at this end
really enjoyed the experience, and were very interested to learn
about life at Bolton School. I think it must be a World first to
have a live video link-up with such a traditional Maasai
tribe. Whilst we were talking to a class of Year 9 girls in
England, all the village's daily activities were taking place
around us - kids fetching water, grazing goats, women getting the
firewood and such like.
The Maasai way of life is changing, especially as the large
tracts of land are bought up for tourism and farming. It
means their semi-nomadic lifestyle is being curtailed and they can
no longer rely solely on their herds of cattle and goats for their
sustenance. Learning new skills such as how to read and write,
speak English and use a computer give the Maasai the opportunity to
find jobs so they can supplement the food they get from their
livestock. This is where the work of LivLife comes in,
offering adults and children the education they need to continue
living by the culture that they live, free from poverty. Since we
opened we have had over 2,000 members come to the courses.
Seventy six ethnic groups use the Centre, the largest being the
Maasai who make up about 40% of our membership. We look
forward to an exciting future where we can build friendships
between our village and pupils at Bolton School."
Mr Andrew Green-Howard, Deputy Head of Bolton School's Girls'
Division, said: "Bringing the Maasai into the classroom is the
start of a long journey. In collaboration with LivLife, we
will be delivering what we have called Project Rafiki, which is a
long-term project, designed to enhance their work and ours as we
develop our relationship with the village community. We have
already raised funds to provide them with an internet dongle which
enables them to provide internet access for their students.
The Year 9 girls will now be offered the chance to communicate
further with the tribe through a "Ning" website - which is a bit
like Facebook but offers more privacy. The idea revolves
around the students' desire to socialise online.
The plan is to develop other curriculum links, including the
Boys' Division Technology Department investigating environmentally
clean power, the Girls' Division Textiles looking at fabrics and
clothing and for a number of collaborative music projects.
Over the coming years, pupils will raise funds and we hope to
take a class of Year 11 pupils to the village in two years'
time. We also aim to bring some of their teachers over to us
to see how we do things here.
The next step of the project is to raise funds, across the whole
School, to help build LivLife's next educational centre. It
may even be called the Bolton School Education Centre. This
would certainly give substance to the vision of Lord Leverhulme who
wanted the School to offer an education for all!"
This in itself is all part of a wider concept which is the
Bolton School Global Village. The School has decided to put
under one umbrella, its varied activities with international
schools. The School has strong links with a school in
Santiago, Chile - the Headmistress visited recently and girls held
a Skype link-up with them as part of their co-curricular and
Spanish studies. It was with great relief that the School
learnt that teachers and pupils are safe - an email from a Chilean
teacher was read out in assembly - following the recent
earthquake. Similar links have been made with China and the
Global Village incorporates the School's World Challenge group and
a stage for French, German and Spanish exchange students to
interact both before and long after their visits and to swap
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