Starting in Maasai land, Moringe is restructuring formal “indigenous” education systems based on African cultural values, a system that passes on skills relevant to the advancement of the Maasai people as equals in East African societies.
Moringe realizes that this century of promise for democracy and good governance provides the optimal environment for minority groups to move forward, and that a democratic, gender-balanced, and dynamic pastoral civil society movement is the key solution to the problems facing the Maasai. For Moringe, critical to this movement is a transformation in the education system at all levels—one that breaks the downward spiral of marginalization and instills the ability and confidence of the Maasai to begin fighting for their own plight and assimilation.
For Moringe, the survival and protection of the Maasai requires an educational system that will deliver top-quality education to Maasai school children, enabling the group to develop a strong professional team of doctors, lawyers, teachers, and other experts. He has therefore set up a community school (the first of its kind in Africa, and the first of a network he envisions) with 50 percent girls and 50 percent boys, 80 percent of which are Maasai. On top of carrying out the usual Tanzanian education activities, these children are taught the original Maasai ways of living, including communal land ownership, cultural dress, and a lifestyle based in their original homesteads rather than in urban areas.
Many Africans have adopted the modern or western ways of living. They no longer identify themselves with their cultures. In Tanzania, because the Maasai have not readily embraced western cultures, the government and other institutions perceive them as primitive and treat them as mostly ignorant obstacles to development and progress. For this reason, the Maasai are neither included in development plans nor consulted on issues directly concerning their lives, and many policies are aimed at uprooting or “modernizing” rather than accommodating the Maasai. They deny the Maasai access to resources that are vital to their livelihoods in favor of numerous “development” programs.
Consequently, hunter/gatherers remain poor and disenfranchised, and their land and rights are often taken from them. Without government on their side, and with a weak and uninformed civil society, corrupt practices threaten the very way of life of the Maasai and other traditional, pastoral groups. Without elected officials, public experts, career professionals, and intellectuals, the Maasai lack the representation, knowledge and skills to fight for their cause and help their people. Education is key, and yet currently there exist no secondary schools in Ngorongoro district, which constrains development and prevents access to higher education and the kinds of learning that will help the Maasai help themselves.
Moringe knows too well that their current predicament is partly a consequence of their own ways of life. He recognizes that certain Maasai traditions have been detrimental to their livelihood. He cites the lack of documentation and protection of the rich diversity of indigenous community knowledge as a major weakness. Moringe is determined to alter the situation by influencing the education policies to consider the Maasai as an asset and a tribe that deserves equal recognition and opportunity as well as protection of its traditional culture.
To achieve his aim, Moringe has employed “The Pivot Pillar,” a strategy with four “pillars” or sub-strategies. Each pillar contributes to Moringe’s vision of a critical mass of educated Maasai that can begin fighting for their own rights and civic inclusion.
Moringe founded the Emanyata Secondary Olosokwan School—the first community school of its kind in Africa—in order to deliver top quality traditional education to the Maasai with traditional Maasai values and practices relating to traditional pastoral societies. The Emanyata schools draw in international volunteer teachers who train local teachers to provide the highest quality education. Revenue is generated through school-run garden/vegetable farms catering to tourist outlets and facilities used for visiting international academics and their students. Parents of students also provide livestock for milk and food.
To further support the Emanyata Secondary Olosokwan School, Moringe has opened up a pastoralist community resource center. The Pastoral Resources Management Shield Center, as he calls it, houses vast amounts of literature on the Maasai and the wildlife in their homeland. The community center focuses on sustainable pastoral resources protection and encourages research, management, and planning as well as deeper understanding of the Maasai culture.
Moringe has mentored dozens of indigenous citizen organizations working to preserve the traditional livelihoods of the Maasai. He has unified them into a single forum called the Pastoralists in NGOs Forum (PINGOS Forum). Starting with Korongoro Peoples Oriented to Conservation (KIPOC) Moringe is spreading his work throughout Tanzania and beyond. The PINGOS Forum is supported by the Pastoral Resources Management Shield Center. More and more citizen organizations are joining the PINGOS Forum with some spreading as far as the Kenya border to the north and the Zambia border to the south. Many of them are advocacy groups, although some provide direct services to the Maasai and others.
Moringe realizes that the documentation and transfer of knowledge from one generation to another is a cornerstone in the sustainability of the livelihoods of indigenous communities. Therefore, the last pillar is the Maasai and Bantemi Indigenous Knowledge of Natural Resources. The purpose of the initiative is to document the ethnobotanical indigenous knowledge together with the health status of the two culturally different but coexistent communities. The initiative also aims to contribute to the strengthening of advocacy for protection of the rangeland natural resources, together with improvement of the health and nutritional status of the two communities.
Moringe uses the global movement of indigenous peoples to spread his ideas and strategies to other indigenous groups. He partners with national and international high-profile academic institutions to bring more resources and value to the school and to train the next generation in the skills necessary for the survival of the Maasai people and for other similar native peoples.
Moringe was born in northern Tanzania, and during his early days, none of the Maasai families believed in sending their children to school. Moringe was lucky to be among the 40 children chosen by the government in each community to go to school. He completed his primary and secondary education and proceeded on to university. He was recruited as a lecturer to the University of Dar es Salaam, where he lectured for two years. He later participated in politics and was elected to represent the Maasai in parliament, through which he thought the social setting for the Maasai would change. Frustrated by the realization that politics would not change the plight of his people, he stepped down from parliament to pursue an approach that relied on education.
Moringe has experienced discrimination from the majority of Tanzanian society. His life has been threatened for his advocacy work. In 1989, the government put out a search warrant because of his persistent fight for the rights of the Maasai. That same year he survived an assassination attempt. After realizing the gravity of the situation, Moringe fled Tanzania. He traveled to a number of countries in Africa, Europe, and America, giving lectures at various universities.
His own family was confused and fearful of his leaving home, but his opportunity to travel widely throughout the world showed him that other people share the same stories, experiences, and plights. Some of these people, however, have found ways to retain their identity and the fabric of their cultures. Moringe found solidarity and support from the international human rights community, which has furthered his work and protected his life.
Returning to Tanzania, he kept a low profile. He lived on the border of Tanzania and Kenya for close to three months and it wasn’t until his extended “family” members urged him to return for purposes of guidance and consultation that he finally returned to Maasai land.
In addition, Moringe helped found and is a senior consultant to over 40 community-based organizations in Tanzania. He has created the Korongoro Peoples Oriented to Conservation, a citizen organization of pastoral peoples in 1991, and the Pastoral Indigenous NGOs Forum with 40 members. Through these networks he advocates for rights, organizes different activities to be undertaken, takes cases to court, and lobbies for change in laws and policies using the media.
Moringe is in the final stages of completing two books: The Maasai Trail and Trials, and The Maasai Wildlife Heritage Under Siege, to be used in advocacy and education about the harmonious existence of the Maasai people and their surrounding wildlife.