Breaking Down Barriers
An environmental scholarship propels a girl to pursue her dream of higher education.
Sikoi Rosio feels tired after a long day of milking her family’s cows, washing the clothes, cooking, and taking care of her younger brothers and sisters. But she doesn’t plan to let her domestic responsibilities stop her from achieving her dream of becoming a dentist. At age 16, Sikoi is on track to become the very first girl in the community of Narakauwo to enroll in a university. She is one of APW’s 45 Noloholo Environmental Scholars, a competitive program that awards high-achieving students with full-ride scholarships to a private secondary school. Now at home from school on summer break, Sikoi finds the opportunity to study whenever she can.
“A few girls in my community finished secondary school, but then they came back and got married,” she says. “If I had not won the scholarship, I would not be in school and would already be married. Now, I will not get married until I become a dentist.”
Sikoi Rosio rests after a long day's work in the village of Narakauwo. (Photo: African People & Wildlife/Laura Milton)
Families who do value education for their children usually find the expense of secondary education out of reach. While several of her siblings have attended primary school, Sikoi is the first person in her family to attend secondary school. She became involved with APW’s youth education programs in 2013 when staff members visited her school and invited the students to join a wildlife club.
“I was one of the first people to join because I thought it was a good thing to learn about the environment. Now I understand the importance of ecology and the relationship between people and wildlife in our daily lives,” she says.
As a Maasai—a pastoralist ethnic group that is one of the most patriarchal societies in East Africa—Sikoi has had to overcome many barriers in pursuit of her dream. Marriage is an important part of Maasai culture, and girls are often married in their early teenage years in exchange for money and cattle. Families do not always see the value of education, especially for girls, who are traditionally expected to rear children and care for the household.
"If I had not won the scholarship, I would not be in school and would already be married. Now, I will not get married until I become a dentist."
After participating in the wildlife club, Sikoi attended one of APW’s weeklong environmental summer camps and eventually applied for—and won—the Noloholo Environmental scholarship. At secondary school, her favorite subjects are biology and physics. “I really like going to a school where there are students from many different communities. It has exposed me to so many new ideas about life.”
When asked if she has a message for other girls in Tanzania, Sikoi has a ready response. “I would ask that we all join together and stop getting married so young so that we can all go to school.”
Learn more about APW’s youth environmental education programs.