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Noonkodin School

Noonkodin Secondary School is in the remote mountain village of Eluwai, northern Tanzania, where most of the residents are Maasai pastoralists.

About the school

Noonkodin, the name of the local area, means ‘impala’ in the Maasai language. The school was founded in 2004 with only 5 students, taught under the shade of a tree. Now, there are almost 200 students between 14 and 25. Around half of these receive a free education, thanks to international sponsors.

Noonkodin is unique! It’s the only school in Tanzania that teaches a special programme of Indigenous Knowledge to encourage students to:

  • document and record the life stories of local elders, and the knowledge, traditions, songs, stories, proverbs and dances of their communities.
  • do their own research on plants and trees used in traditional herbal medicine.
  • learn about other cultures through global school partnerships.
  • bring together indigenous knowledge and modern technology for sustainable livelihoods, e.g. cultural tourism, handicrafts, music or natural soaps.

A non-denominational school, it also teaches the full Tanzanian National Curriculum in English, Maths, Kiswahili, Geography, History, Civics, Chemistry, Biology and Physics. In 2010, Noonkodin was ranked 3rd out of 23 schools in the district for academic achievement.

Over 60% of Noonkodin students are female, and many of these girls and young women have run away from home in order to escape female genital mutilation and/or forced marriages, often to much older men.

Building the school

Building the school has not been an easy task. Every brick was made by hand from local clay and baked in wood-fired kilns. Water has been transported up the mountain by truck, and carried on the backs of donkeys from a reservoir 6km away.

Yet, in just a few years, the school has grown and grown, so that it now consists of:

  • four classrooms…
  • a science lab…
  • a library/computer room…
  • two staff houses…
  • a kitchen…
  • toilet blocks…
  • boys’ and girls’ dormitories…

…all thanks to the generosity of individuals, schools, companies and small charities in the UK, USA, Australia and elsewhere, working with rural Tanzanian families.
But there are still many urgent needs, including a new girls’ dormitory, an emergency vehicle, student sponsorship and support for teacher training.