Turkana Children’s Sociocultural Practices of Pastoralist Lifestyles and Science Curriculum and Instruction in Kenyan Early Childhood Education
This dissertation discusses the findings of an ethnographic exploratory study of Turkana nomadic pastoralist children's sociocultural practices of their everyday lifestyles and science curriculum and instruction in Kenyan early childhood curriculum. The study uses the findings from Turkana elders to challenge the dominant society in Kenya that draws from Western education ideology to unfairly criticize Turkana traditional nomadic cultural practices as resistant to modern education. Yet Turkana people have to rely on the cultural knowledge of their environment for survival. In addition, the community lives in abject poverty caused by the harsh desert environment which has contributed to parents’ struggle to support their children’s education. Cultural knowledge of Turkana people has received support in research demonstrating the role cultural lifestyles such as nomadic pastoralism play as important survival strategy that enable people to adapt to the harsh desert environment to ensure the survival of their livestock critical for their food security. The study documented ways in which the Kenya national education curriculum, reflecting Western assumptions about education, often alienates and marginalises nomadic children, in its failure to capture their cultural Indigenous knowledge epistemologies. The research investigated the relationships between Turkana children’s sociocultural practices of pastoralist lifestyles and the national science curriculum taught in local preschools and first grade science classrooms in Kenya and the extent to which Turkana children’s everyday life cultural practices inform science instruction in early childhood grades. Multiple ethnographic methods such as participant and naturalistic observation, focus group interviews, analysis of documents, archival materials, and cultural artifacts were used to explore classrooms instruction and Indigenous sociocultural practices of the Turkana nomads. The findings from the elders’ narratives indicated that there was a general congruence in thematic content of science between Turkana Indigenous knowledge and the national science curriculum. However, Turkana children traditionally learned independently by observation and hands-on with continuous scaffolding from parents and peers. The study recommends a science curriculum that is compatible with the Indigenous knowledge epistemologies and instructional strategies that are sensitive to the worldview of nomadic children.