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Interview with Mokia Naputu

2018 Founder Jessey Jansen and Mokia Naputu
2018 Founder Jessey Jansen and Mokia Naputu

Intelligence without ambition is a bird without wings

Lets talk about ambition, that fierce feeling that can steer the wildest dreams into reality. The yearning desire to achieve a sharply molded objective spiked with enthusiasm for purpose. Maasai warrior, Mokia Naputu, thrusts himself forward in his goal of helping his people.

In the bustling cityscape of Arusha, Mokia introduced himself in 2018. A bright mind and passionate appetite for change, his budding determination and assertive nature beamed ideas.

Upon meeting, Mokia was a teaching assistant and student of Geography and Environment at the University of Dar Es Salaam. Captivated by VOM, he recognized synergy with our platform and his conversation exchange about the challenges in Maasailand. Hailing from the Simanjiro District in Northern Tanzania, he was raised in a family of 22 members including his (late) father and his three wives and their children. His family amounts to 18 (10 girls and 8 boys) whereas 9 girls have been married at the age of 12-15 years old. He is the only child to attend school despite the desire of his siblings to attend as well.

Mokia, please share your education journey with our readers.

It is not because our parents reject education, or because the children are not bright or they don’t want to go to school; it is because by the time my sisters reached school age there were no schools in the village. The few children in the village that go to school, including one of my older sisters, had to walk 27km through the dangerous bush and hills daily to access a local primary school from the neighbor villages. The school had a capacity of only 80 students.

As result, my parents managed to establish a primary school under the tree at the village where I was able to enroll at the age of 8. The only teacher available had gone missing, so the school had to end. Then in 2000, the school reopened and I officially registered. Among 37 graduates, only 8 passed to secondary school where I was their best student. From secondary school to university I was the only one in the village making the list of 10 university degree holders from Simanjiro District by the year 2015.

I am now a masters student, undergraduate and postgraduate student with honors, and teaching assistant at the University of Dar es Salaam which has been named the most prestigious higher learning institution in the East African Region. My achievements allowed for an international sponsorship for learning at at the University of Winnipeg in Manitoba Canada where I spent a year studying. Why do you feel education is so important?

We as Maasai must educate and empower ourselves as every one of us is responsible for the decisions for our future. Time to act is now. We, both young and old, should face the challenges with an educated and consultative perspective before our ability to dream and change is crippled by outsiders.

I am the keeper of my family of 12 members, expected to provide for them with the basic needs following the death of our father in 2017. Education is important for me as it is the way I can serve my family and community. I hope to help others learn more about what it means to be Maasai and some of the issues we face.

Your journey of education is layered and diverse, do you feel that is part of the success for significant change?

My experience from bush classrooms to university setting to international sponsorship has taught me how to negotiate new environments. helping me to understand how interconnected the world is. Climate change is not a Maasailand issue, it is a global problem with symptoms affecting my people. Cultural cooperation and awareness is important for accomplishing large goals.

Where do you see your next five years?

I want to be a Professor at University of Dar Es Salaam so I am able to continue to influence and encourage the next generation of Maasai, help arm my people with intellectual tools.

2022 Update: Mokia Naputu Mollel, a Maasai from Simanjiro District in the northern part of Tanzania is now a Professor at the University of Dar Es Salaam. He uses Voice of Maasai platform to empower knowledge and teach others about Maasai culture and the issues they face.


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