In 2007, there was not a single girl in class eight in Elangata Enterit Boarding Primary School in Narok South constituency.
However, there were 16 boys who enjoyed the right to sit the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education examination.
Though more girls than boys had been enrolled in the school, they had progressively fallen victim to female genital mutilation, then proceeded to get married, completely burying any hopes of ever returning to school.This is despite the fact that the practice had been outlawed since 2011.
Since 2007, the average number of girls in standard eight at Elangata Enterit primary has been nine.
This has prompted various stakeholders to go to great lengths towards ensuring that education in the expansive Narok county is not only accessible but of good quality.
Through great advocacy efforts, this pastoralist community is embracing boarding facilities for the young pupils, who hitherto had to walk many kilometres to and from school daily just to access an education.
On the way, many had to be wary of dangerous wild animals. Such challenges prompted a good number of them to opt out of school.
“Elangata Enterit has 60 girls in boarding school and more than 100 boys. This is very encouraging because pastoralist communities are marginalised with many challenges that keep the children away from school,” explains Bernard Sankale, the head teacher.
Some of the stakeholders include the World Vision Kenya who continue to ensure that minority and marginalised communities have access to quality education facilities that enable children to be educated for life.
As a result, Elangata Enterit currently has 60 candidates, with 22 of them being girls. Almost double the number of girls sat KCPE in 2015.
The boarding facility is generally open to those in standard four but if a younger child is independent enough to do their own washing and to have the emotional capacity to be away from home, then the school makes an exception.
The proliferation of boarding primary schools in Narok South constituency is re-writing the history in this community.
Though it is a rare occurrence to have more girls than boys sit KCPE, girls are nonetheless catching up.
“The student population here is 259 boys and 215 girls but in class eight they are even. This is the first time we are experiencing a situation where the number of girls in class eight equals that of boys,” says Peter Saitoti, head teacher of Enkutoto Primary School.
The school’s boarding facility is currently only open to boys to help address the challenges that a boy in a pastoralist community goes through that makes it difficult for him to access an education.
“We will eventually provide boarding facilities for the girls but we are alarmed that though the number of girls enrollment and retention in school is on the rise, this is not the case for the boy-child,” Saitoti explains.
The boarding facility was made possible through the contributions made by the staff of the World Vision Kenya under their Inuka Angaza (Rise Up and Shine) Fund.
Kevina Power, an employee of the World Vision Kenya, says the goal of the fund is to contribute towards the well-being of children in hardship areas.
"We are rising up for our children especially the vulnerable, to help them access quality education that will open the doors for them towards a brighter future," she says.
Though it has been more than a decade since the government made it possible for all children to access free and compulsory primary education, a myriad of challenges continue to stand between thousands of children and the classroom.
“We are not doing this alone, we are seeking partnerships with other like-minded stakeholders such as the Family Group Foundation and collectively we can make a huge impact,” she says.
The need for as many schools as possible to provide boarding facilities cannot be overemphasized.
“The distance from one school to the next is significant so we need to spread this net far and wide,” Saitoti emphasizes.
Sankale says these boarding facilities are also serving as rescue centres for both boys and girls. “Boys are kept safe from moranism while girls are protected from various harmful cultural practices,” he adds.
When young boys are drawn into moranism, where young boys live in isolation in the bush, this ends their pursuit of education.
“We have children from pastoralist communities coming from Mai Mahiu, Kajiado and various parts of the expansive Narok county. We accommodate them here and when a child goes home and does not return, we report to the respective chief for follow up,” he says.
Sankale says chiefs have been key towards ensuring that children are not only enrolled but that they also stay in school.
Elangata Enterit has come a long way from pupils sleeping on the floor in classrooms and the head teacher’s office, to having proper dormitories.
The school’s star performance however says very little of the challenges the pupils have been through. In 2014, the school was first in the division out of 23 schools and first in the district beating 188 other schools.
Though the school has a total population of 477 students and only 178 are girls, the teachers are hopeful that as the circumstances under which they receive education continue to improve, so will the numbers.
Kilometres away from Elangata Enterit is yet another primary school, Enaramatishoreki, which is about 47km from Narok town.
Francis Teka, the head teacher, is hopeful that the school will not live up to its name.
“Enaramatishoreki is Maasai for a place that is good for grazing animals but we want this school to be the key to a bright future for our children,” he says.
Teka says that pastoralist communities should be encouraged to embrace boarding facilities.
He says that they have been key to improving transition from primary schools to secondary schools.
"If we have more candidates sitting KCPE, then chances are many of them will cross over into high school,” he says.
Children walking long distances are often too exhausted to pay attention during classes but teachers in these schools are more hopeful that their performance will improve since their environment is becoming more conducive.
Where a primary school offers boarding facilities, teachers say there are now fewer pupils dropping out of school during the dry season since the schools are negotiating with parents to leave their children in school if there is a need to migrate in search of greener pastures.
“Many would leave with their families especially in third term, missing a whole term but others would not return,” Saitoti explains.
As the journey towards the classroom shortens for pastoralist children through dormitory facilities, the future is looking brighter for these children who continue to show resilience and eagerness to learn.