Maasai Children

There are approximately 841,622 Maasai in Kenya and a further 430,000 in northern areas of Tanzania with the word 'Maasai' deriving from the word Maa; so Maa-sai means 'my people'. They live a nomadic or semi-nomadic lifestyle and are perhaps best known for their distinctive customs and dress. The Maasai lifestyle centres on the herding of cattle and they have an ancient tradition that God bequeathed to them all the cattle on earth; a tradition quoted when caught rustling cattle from other non-Maasai herdsmen! Given this lifestyle, Maasai boys are expected to be herders from a young age, starting with looking after the family's lambs and young calves from around the age of five whilst girls learn domestic skills. The living is harsh with a life expectancy of just 45 years.

At the age of seven, Maasai boys traditionally have the top of their right earlobe pierced signalling the taking on of more responsibilities such as looking after older calves and herding cattle with the rest of the family. The next stage for Maasai children is at the age of sixteen or seventeen when the lower lobes of both ears are pierced in a ceremony that augurs a new period when they take on sole responsibility for cattle and moving herds.

Shortly after Maasai boys are circumcised; a rite of passage that then allows him to decorate himself with olive branches and carry a quiver. Around this time Maasai girls are dressed in black robes and a leather decoration is put in her pierced ear lobe.

Living a nomadic lifestyle presents challenges for the education of Maasai children although an increasing number of them are eager to attend education. This is made all the more difficult because schools are so far away from their communities and, whilst some Massai children do undertake secondary education, few have the opportunity to attend college.

While at school, they learn English and Swahili, however their native language, Maa, is still spoken at home. Obviously when they are at school they cannot perform their expected, traditional duties so such attendance is rarely encouraged and the situation is even worse for girls as there is a clear expectation that, on growing up, they will marry and live with their husband's kin without need for any skills outside domestic duties and child-rearing. (Culturally, Maasai girls normally are offered by fathers to marry older men to marry, often when they are between the ages of twelve and fourteen.)


Maasai Children

Maasai Children

Maasai Children

Maasai Children



Maasai Child Sponsor: Osiligi Charity Projects

A project working with Maasai children who would not go to school without sponsorship.
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Life for Massai Children

Maasai Children

Today, however, there are programs to bring education, water and health facilities to the Maasai people and this is attempted whilst preserving traditional Maasai culture for as one Maasai warrior put it, "A Maasai without culture is as a zebra without stripes. If we abandon our way of life, our next step could be extinction."

Maasai Location

Together with a video of Maasai explaining their way of life, we detail projects and programs to support the lives of Maasia children in Kenya and Tanzania.


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