Dropping nets for school: A Story of Hope for the Marginalized Sanye Community

“2023 has been a wonderful year! Hearing those two students from the Sanye community, who sat for their Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) warms my heart,” exclaimed Dr. Sara. “The lady especially, has made us proud,” she concluded excitedly.

Indeed, only two out of eleven students who enrolled in primary school in 2011 completed the first phase of the 8-4-4 journey. These two resiliently conquered by braving the challenges faced by the Sanye -the most marginalized community in Kenya. However, three managed to complete primary school while one got married after the first term enrolment to form one.

Results from the Uwezo survey conducted in 2009 indicated that no one in the Sanye community had completed primary school. This was followed up by an immersion visit in 2012 by Dr. John Mugo and Dr.Sara Ruto alongside other colleagues who investigated the most marginalized communities in Kenya. The Sanye community of Lamu and Munyoyaya community of Tana River emerged as the most marginalized. The visit led to some actions to support the Sanye community where eleven learners were enrolled in Mokowe Arid Zone- a low-cost boarding school in Lamu County. Having them in a boarding school would reduce the chances of dropout and absenteeism. Fortunately, Mohamed, alongside a group of ten other students, were enrolled in class one in 2011. However, in 2023 only two sat for KCSE exams. Indeed, it has taken 12 years to educate two students!

“Wacha nikuambie Mr. James, this time nimeamua sirudi baharini kuvua samaki tena. Nataka nikae nyumbani ndio results zikitoka, niwajulishe ndio mnisaidie niingie college…,” (Let me tell you Mr. James, this time I have decided that I will no longer go back to the Indian Ocean to fish. I want to be home so that when the KCSE results are out, I can communicate and you help me go to college), Mohamed who sat for his KCSE informed me on a phone call.

This message melted my heart, seeing that Mohamed would opt not to go on his usual fishing expedition in the Indian Ocean instead report to school. In one instance, he missed two terms and after coming back we had to engage a private tutor to provide teaching support after school hours.  I am happy now that we share a mutual understanding with Mohamed…I’m glad he understands the purpose of education. Currently, Mohamed is in Mombasa where he is taking computer packages and a driving course.

“I’m happy that we at least have the three who have completed primary school. I remember when these children came back home during the holiday breaks, it was a real hustle on the reporting day. I had to run after them in the forest and assemble them at one point and take them to school,” Faraj, Program Officer-Maridhiano Community Based Organization, shared his experience. I share the same sentiments. Whenever I visited Lamu, I would always find Mohamed out of school. However, I no longer require doing this anymore, as he now understands the importance of education.

The Sanye community is an extension of the Khoi San of South Africa, and they are mostly known to be hunters and gatherers. Due to the ongoing bush clearing to accommodate agricultural activities, the community is no longer able to carry out their routine activities and they have ended up being laborers of the nearby communities.

“During the immersion, I went out to experience how it felt to work on those farms. We were set to harvest cotton. Later in the evening, we went to weigh and receive our wages. I was the leading one and I only got KES 60 (0.6 USD),” Dr. John shared his immersion experience. Living on less than a dollar a day, the community struggles to meet their basic needs and education becomes a luxury.

After 12 years of supporting the community, we now have the first cohort who did their KCSE in 2023. Since the beginning of 2021, the Zizi Afrique Foundation has implemented the ‘Tenda Wema Initiative’ meaning ‘Do Good.’ The initiative has gone beyond educating the Sanye community by supporting needy students countrywide. The initiative raises money through the staff member’s contributions and well-wishers. Through this initiative, over 50 children have been supported. In commemorating Dr. Sara Ruto’s contribution as the founder of both Zizi Afrique Foundation and The Peoples Action for Learning (PAL) Network, the Sara Cup’s annual tournament was born in 2021 and in 2023, we celebrated the third edition. This year, the charity event will be held on 28th September 2024, bringing members from different institutions where a range of games for adults and children will be held as we fundraise for underserved children.

The Tenda Wema initiative is ‘a call to give’ which encourages both individuals and corporates to support at least one child to attain their dream. Initiatives like this will help increase access and quality education for the underserved children, which promotes peace among neighboring communities. Apart from supporting them in only one level, we encourage them to ensure that the children identified are supported through the whole cycle which is primary, secondary, and tertiary education. Zizi Afrique Foundation contributes towards a world where all children and youth learn and thrive!


  • Faraj Mohamed
    April 26, 2024

    I am very happy for the two students who managed to complete their secondary Education. Thanks to Dr. Sarah Ruto and Dr. Mugo for their efforts, support and sacrifice to make a change for the Sanye Community.

  • Faraj Mohamed
    April 27, 2024

    I am Very happy for the two students who competed their secondary Education. Thanks to Dr. Sarah Ruto and Dr. John Mugo for their efforts, Support and Sacrifice to make a big change to the Sanye Community.

Leave a reply