Toby Young Toby Young

A Kenyan education

I’m currently in Kenya with my family where I’m planning to stay for the next seven weeks. The official reason is to help my friend Aidan Hartley set up a primary school in Laikipia, but I have another, less pious motive. Last June, Aidan arranged for me to give a speech at Pembroke, his children’s prep school in the Rift Valley, and I was so taken with it I asked the headmistress if my own children could come for half a term. It has such an adventurous, Wild West atmosphere, I thought it would make a good contrast to the C of E primary school my children are at in Shepherd’s Bush. The headmistress agreed on condition that I teach a class in English literature. I’m going to start them off on The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber by Ernest Hemingway.

We spent our first four days here at the Karen Blixen safari camp in the Maasai Mara and the variety and abundance of the local wildlife was spellbinding. Even my jaded children were impressed. ‘This is so epic, Dad,’ said four-year-old Charlie, staring at a herd of zebra on our first safari drive. ‘It’s just like Madagascar.’

One of the highlights of our trip was a visit to a Maasai village, where every adult male has at least five wives. Each wife has her own mud hut where she sleeps with her half-dozen or so children and has to wait her turn as her husband makes the rounds. Caroline got quite irritated when I told our Maasai guide — a man called Dominic — that this custom had much to recommend it.

One of the reasons the men have so many wives is that divorce is expensive. When a Maasai man gets married his family pay the bride’s people a number of cows, depending on how desirable she is.

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