Every Student Has A Story
Friends, my newsletter is focused on three of our students at Friends Theological College (FTC). These are Alex Saning’o (20), Sabina Tenoi (19), and Rosina Lepariyo (31). All are from the pastoralist communities of the Masai and Samburu in Kenya.
Alex, a Masai is studying for a certificate program in Pastoral Ministry while Sabina, also Massai is doing a diploma in Theology. Rosina is from Samburu and is pursuing a bachelor of Theology degree.
These three told their story to Alfred Wasike from Uganda, who is also an FTC bachelor’s degree student and on work-study assignment as communications director. He is the General Secretary of the Friends Church of Uganda Yearly Meeting (Quakers). Alfred is an accomplished journalist who received a calling to come to FTC to “seek the face of God.”
Alex Saning’o was born on February 28, 1999, in Poroko, in a small village known as Shololo of Narok County, Kenya. He is the second last born among two sisters and seven brothers. Alex’s parents are farmers who keep livestock (cattle, goats, sheep, and chicken) and also grow maize (corn) and beans. He was born and brought up in a polygamous family. His father has two wives, his mother being the second. There are nine children from his biological mother and six from his stepmother. Alex says that they all live in the same large compound as they look after a large herd of cattle.
Alex was born and grew up in a Quaker family. His father, David Mbakaya Olemaningi was a pastor who planted their current local church about two kilometers away from their home. David, who was also an FTC alumnus passed away in Narok in 2007. Alex went to Kipupu Friends Primary School up to 8th grade and later joined an African Inland Church (AIC) Kapmaso High School in Kericho County. He completed his form four (12th grade) in November 2018 and in September 2019 he joined FTC.
Alex testifies that his going through high school education was not an easy task. During his high school parents were required to pay school fees for their children, and so his widowed mother struggled to see him through high school with sales of their cattle, which were now diminishing. “I see my coming to FTC as a calling and also partly I wanted to follow the footsteps of my father,” says Alex. Being a good singer, Alex developed a strong desire to become a minister especially during his high school days when he conducted high school choir in 2017/2018. He says with a big smile and excitement in his heart, “I feel so grateful about being at FTC. I like ministering the word of God, especially counseling and sharing the word of God.” Alex wishes to pursue further “and beyond” after he graduates in October this year with a certificate in Pastoral Ministry.
When asked if there are any challenges he may be encountering as he does ministry among his Masai community, without hesitation Alex quickly chipped in, “Quakerism, water, trees, FGM, and polygamy.” He expounded on these facts by saying, “We need to teach our people about Quakerism,” because many of them only hear about the Friends Church, which is also called Quakers. Certain parts of the Masai community are really dry and natural forests have been destroyed due to human activities. Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is still a major contributor to illiteracy among girls in the Masai community. “Polygamy,” stresses Alex, “is a major contributor to poverty among my people.” He says that he will continue playing the “One man, one wife” drum across the ridges in his Masai community.
Sabina Tenoi was born and grew up in a small village known as Kumpa, in Kajiado County, Kenya. She was born on October 28, 1998, and is the first born of five sisters and four brothers. Her father, William Merumo and mother, Esther Kateri brought them up in a Pentecostal Christian background until 2005 when the Quaker Church was introduced in Kajiado by Nairobi Yearly Meeting. “Our family joined the Friends church in 2006,” says Sabina, “Otherwise I was educated in an Africa Inland Church (AIC) sponsored primary school and went to Catholic St.Valentine Girls High School in Machakos where I did my form 4 exam in 2015, and in September 2017 I joined FTC.
“I loved going to Sunday school when I was growing up,” says Sabina. “And that same spirit saw me through my primary and high school education. I believe it is the same spirit and desire that drove me to FTC.” Sabina, who is in her first year diploma class expresses her love for FTC with a wide contagious smile on her face, “I feel so great to be at FTC because it is a learning, spiritual, and intellectual ground that has made me learn more about God and has also helped me to improve in my academic skills.” Sabina says, “FTC is a place of more information that one can dig in to use in ministry.” Sabina continues to say, “because of this, FTC has shaped me into a great person. I am accepted in my community (Masai) as a minister and also as a scholar.” Sabina testifies this with sincerity in her heart because it is not easy for women to be accepted as ministers and educators, especially young women of Sabina’s age in the male-dominated culture.
Sabina points out with a heavy heart that there are too many drop-outs from primary schools in the Masai community, especially girls. Adjusting her position in the chair, and with her head tilted upward, Sabina proudly said, “I need to get this quality education from FTC so that I can go back to help fight illiteracy among our people. We need the education to fight and end FGM among our people.” These are the biggest challenges she encounters.
Rosina Lepariyo is a single parent trying to raise up her two kids, 10 and 7-year-old girls. Her father, Lepion Lelelit passed on in 2009 but her mother, Julietta Ngashar is still living, now 83 years young. Born on February 28, 1988, at Lodojek in Samburu County, Rosina says she had a lot of challenges growing up. She has two sisters and five brothers. When her father was alive, they had lots of livestock but now not anymore. She went to a Catholic-sponsored Naiborkeju Primary school and completed her 8th grade in 2005. The school is about 10 miles from her home, but Kisima Girls School where she did her high school education is 5 miles closer home.
Rosina’s parents did not attend any church until she was enrolled in the Catholic school then they began attending mass in a Catholic church. When the Friends Church was established in Samburu Friends Mission, both of her parents and the rest of the family joined and became Quakers. When asked what motivated her to join FTC, Rosina believes she chose FTC to respond to God’s calling. She says, “It was a privilege for me to come to FTC. I never expected it. I am equipped with skill and knowledge. I feel that I am in the right place by being here.” Rosina says that she wants to be a role model to her Samburu community “especially to the women who are struggling against the outmoded custom of FGM and forced teenage marriages.” She began her program of study at FTC on a certificate level, later enrolled for diploma and in September 2018 she climbed the academic ladder to enroll in a bachelor of Theology degree program. Armed with the acquired quality education from FTC, Rosina stresses, “I want to show them that God is for us all. In our community, men do not value women.”
When asked about what challenges she sees facing her and/or her community, Rosina did not waste time to say, “We seriously need to work on women empowerment.” She emphasizes this point with tears in her eyes, “We need to help liberate our women from the bondage of FGM and other oppressive outdated traditional practices. We need to teach our people about resource management so that we can improve our livestock and stop nomadism.”
It is an additional blessing to FTC to have students from the pastoralist communities. FTC is empowering them to extend Quakerism in their communities and beyond. Together with the rest of the residential students, they packed their bags to go on recess for August holidays until the first week of September to resume for the September semester. The student body surprised the faculty and staff during the FTC community service in the Chapel on May 27, 2019. They gave gifts to each faculty and academic-related staff in appreciation for good and sacrificial services rendered. I was personally moved with this gesture and so were other members of the faculty whose spirits were motivated.