Getting to school can be a daily struggle for many young people in Kenya. Not only do they have to trek long distances, but many have to deal with a range of issues from wildlife conflict to coping with drought and hunger. (Save The Elephants does what it can to help elephant scholars cope with these obstacles including providing food to schools in need.)
Despite the challenges, it’s encouraging to see so many students overcoming these challenges and emerging with such good grades in the final examinations in 2017 and eager to start high school.
This year, the Elephant Scholarship programme has accepted its highest number of scholars – sixteen in fact – all of whom exude optimism, determination and desire to change their lives through education. The programme works closely with local primary schools in Northern Kenya to select highly motivated intelligent students who come from pastoralist backgrounds and whose families are unable to afford high school fees.
One such student enrolled in the 2018 intake, Nicodemus Leuria, from Sereolipi, was determined not to let difficulties or his under-privileged background deter his dreams of attending high school.
Nicodemus’ family had tried every means possible to get him into school but could not raise enough funds despite borrowing from fellow villagers and family. On the day they contacted Save The Elephants about a possible elephant scholarship, Nicodemus had already embarked on a 40 km journey on foot to visit his extended family members in a failed effort to see if they would help fund his education.
Nicodemus had already shown that he was an exemplary student, garnering 361 marks out of 500 in the final national primary school examination to become the second top-performing student at his school. But while other students were already starting at high school, Nicodemus was forced to stay at home as his family tried to figure out how they could pay for their son’s education.
And then Save The Elephants’ Education Team came to his rescue. We were able to accept Nicodemus into the 2018 intake of elephant scholars, thanks to the generosity of Penny and Graham Stock from England, and he is now a happy Form One student at Maralal High School.
Nicodemus has made his goat-herding parents extremely proud. He is the first child of seven siblings to have made it to high school, and everyone is excited to see him take this important step in life. In fact his fellow villagers were so full of enthusiasm when Save The Elephants’ paid Nicodemus a home visit recently, that they willingly left their chores to accompany us to his home.
Rewarding stories like this inspire us to work even harder to promote education in Northern Kenya and encourage local communities to engage in conservation, either at leadership level, or as stewards of the ecosystem. As an icon of hope in his village, Nicodemus is already an inspiration to other students and we hope will spread the word about the importance of elephants and the entire ecosystem to his entire family and villagers thus creating new wildlife ambassadors in the process.
Some more photos of the students during the 2018 orientation at Save the Elephants: