Conversations with the Ik

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The Ik – from left to right – Clement, Monica, Grace, Veronica, and Calisto
                Our dinner conversation on Sunday with the Ik included discussion of marriage, school, cattle raiding, bee keeping, traditional dances, food, and future hopes and dreams.  It was fascinating for me to have the opportunity to get to know five Ik teenagers that are sponsored by MCC and to learn more about their culture and way of life.
   Some interesting facts about the Ik:
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–          Their primary livelihood is bee keeping and subsistence farming
–          If an Ik man wants to get married, he has to work on the farm of his future bride for one or two seasons instead of paying a bride price
–          They live in the mountains between the Dodoth and the Turkana, two nomadic tribes that keep cattle.  There is a lot of cattle raiding and the Ik sometimes get caught in the cross fire.  They don’t keep any animals because in the past when they tried to keep cows or goats neighboring tribes would raid them, take the animals, and sometimes kill people.
–          Cattle raiding (common in Northern Uganda by the Uganda/Kenya/South Sudan border) is NOT a few mischievous teenagers taking a cow or two from their neighbor.  It is often a highly organized raid with many men armed with machine guns where they steal up to hundreds of cows.
Here’s a little more info about two of the Ik teenagers we met:
Veronica (“Nikki”) was the oldest in the group and has just finished senior six (in the Uganda system, there are seven years of primary (p1 to p7), four years of high school (senior 1 to s4) and then 2 years of A level (senior 5 and s6).  At the end of each cluster, the students take an exam and must pass the exam to move on to the next level of education.  Their grade on that exam is the sole factor in which school they are able to attend.
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Veronica is waiting for her senior six exam results to see if she will earn a place in a University.  She was consistently at the top of her class, so there is a good chance she will qualify and earn a spot.  She is outgoing, friendly and ambitious, and wants to be a lawyer so she can advocate for the rights of her people.  She said, “”The assistance MCC is giving us will serve to help IK children for generations. As a sponsored student, I am also prepared to give back to my community.”  She is also great with kids and made friends with Natalie very quickly, who had a great time playing and laughing with her.

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Monica, resting after her group did their dance
Monica is the oldest of six siblings and is waiting on the results of her senior four exams.  Her family depends on subsistence agriculture, bee keeping, and they also have a few chickens.  Monica remembers several years ago when some cattle raiders came through her village after a botched raid.  In frustration, they actually stole all of her family’s chickens.  From their hiding place, Monica and her family could hear the raiders fleeing with all of their chickens.
Monica is a bright and ambitious young lady who also hopes to become a lawyer.  In reference to taking her senior four exams, Monica said, “ I am honored to be part of the group of Ugandan children who sat the national examination; moreover being a girl and being consistent up to this level is in itself a great achievement and an example to many.  Many girls who were with me from the beginning cannot be traced, because most of them dropped out of school and were married off.” (early marriage is very common in the Ik culture).
I really enjoyed the time we had to talk with these teenagers and was inspired by their hard work and determination.  For more information about MCC’s partnership with the Ik and our other education programs, check out our website: http://globalfamily.mcc.org/programs/uganda
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