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HomeNewsWhy education matters to Turkana pastoralists. Research by Dr Spyridon Lazarakis

Why education matters to Turkana pastoralists. Research by Dr Spyridon Lazarakis

Education is vital to improving the lives of the Turkana People in north-western Kenya, according to new research by a team led by Dr Spyridon Lazarakis, a Lecturer in Macroeconomics in the Department of Economics in Lancaster University Management School (LUMS).

The international team have carried research in Turkana for about 2 years along with colleagues from the University of Glasgow, Erasmus University Rotterdam and the Friends of Lake Turkana.

 Dr Lazarakis has studied the importance of education for people who have always depended on livestock to earn a living.

Funded by the Scottish Funding Council as part of the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF), the study found that Turkana pastoralists are increasingly adopting education as a means of earning a livelihood.

The team conducted fieldwork in 3 places (Kangakipur, Loperot and Napusumoru) in southern areas of Turkana, which involved household questionnaires, interviews, direct group discussions and field observations.

The Turkana communities have always depended on their livestock for their livelihoods, and it remains at the heart of their livelihood, as the source of their diet and their income. 

It is also an essential component of their cultural heritage because it is linked to ancestral inheritance including prestige and social status, use of animals for payment of a dowry during marriages, for food during celebrations and for kinship support.

The Turkana pastoralists are endangered drought and livestock diseases, in a setting of poor and inadequate infrastructure and low educational engagement, resulting in poverty and inequality. 

Due to their overdependence on pastoralism, these uncertainties have disadvantageous effects on their livelihoods, making education an essential investment.

“Our research shows that Turkana pastoralists are increasingly embracing education as a means of earning a livelihood,” said Dr Lazarakis. “We have identified perceived obstacles to education which are linked to sociocultural characteristics of the Turkana pastoralists, as well as external factors that are beyond their control, such as infrastructure and the physical environment).

“We are also able to highlight the expected benefits from education, including as a source of employment and income, as a way to diversify livelihoods, and to advance social status.”

The researchers produced a briefing note, Turkana pastoralists at risk: Why education matters, to highlight their findings, as well as an educational booklet, Voices of the Turkana People, telling the story of the lives of the Turkana People from their own perspectives.

“The collection of local narratives presents the voices of Turkana pastoralists living in these local communities,” said Dr Lazarakis. “The views expressed are those conveyed by local people themselves."

The booklet will be distributed in primary schools in Turkana to initiate conversations on the cultural and economic components of the Turkana communities, and how these interact with gender matters, future hopes for the young populations, environmental and school challenges, and the capacity to cope with future uncertainties. 

The booklet will encourage critical contemplative debate among pupils on these matters and is available both in English and Kiturkana, the language of the Turkana People.

Dr Lazarakis worked with Dr Konstantinos Angelopoulos and Dr Rebecca Mancy (University of Glasgow), Dr Dorice Agol (Friends of Lake Turkana) and Dr Elissaios Papyrakis (International Institute of Social Studies, Erasmus University Rotterdam) on the project.


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