Discuss the theme of education in the novel the River and the Source?

Education is a lesson of transition from ignorance to understanding. Education involves adopting the knowledge of things and their functioning, understanding the interaction of people and their behavior. Furthermore, in modern day society, education empowers one to become proactive and be a resource whilst earning a living.

In The River and the Source, education can be classified on the grounds of traditional education and modern or colonial education. Traditional education in this context is the non-formal education which was chiefly passed by the word of mouth from one generation to another. On the other hand, colonial education is the type of education that is passed on through the written word and involves various subjects that prepares one for the future employment opportunities, chiefly as discussed in the book.

Traditionally, education was based on the values of chik,a child was raised so as to obey his/her elders. In addition the child was taught the values of a community and how to conduct him/herself. K’Olima says that Akoko had been taught the values of chik and would not bring a disgrace to her family. Furthermore, Akoko trains her children to be hardworking. She makes Obura an early riser and teaches him to be a people person and not overdomineering boss.

On the women, Akoko believes that a woman has to be an early riser and quick on the feet. The author says that Akoko believed that there was no man enough to cover the shame of a lazy woman, but a lazy man was safe if he had married a hardworking woman. On the other hand, boys were taught about the history of the tribe, on their journey to Kisuma, Akoko engages the twins, opiyo and odongo on the history of the tribe. She opens up to the boys about their ancestry and the heroes their clan have sired. It is not clear how Akoko knew this history but we can deduce that, both boys and girls studied this history. Lineage was important in the society to avoid the cases of a cousin marrying another and secondly, to make young ones proud of their heritage besides working hard to live a lasting legacy.

Primarily, traditional education was chiefly through apprenticeship. Those who went through the system learned at various stages and each stage was marked by initiation. The rules were strict and the guidance was based on chik.

We are introduced to western education when the Akokos move to Aluor. Here, Akoko dedicates her life to the Christian God, and being far-sighted sees the value of education in the rapidly changing world. She is ready to sacrifice her dreams to let Owuor Sino pursue his dreams of becoming a priest. She tells him that she was wondering when he would get the courage to tell her about his dreams. She readily acknowledges the new roles that comes with embracing Christianity. We can see her prediction of the future when she cautions Mary Nyabera sternly for standing in the way of Elizabeth Awiti’s education. Akoko had known that in the foreseeable future, men and women would be equal and therefore wanted her granddaughter to be equal to the task when the time comes.

Western education also gives a child an opportunity to choose what to do in the society. To begin with, the destiny of Owuor was to become chief when he came of age, that was his fate, hist destiny, however, he chooses his vocation and his parents support him regardless what was required of him by society. Secondly, despite Mark’s opposition on Becky becoming an air hostess, she finally makes it and serves her country in that capacity becoming successful and rich. Furthermore, we see a disintegration of men and women roles when, Wandia and Aoro compete neck to neck at the university, Wandia finally, becomes more successful, education wise than Aoro.

Therefore, whereas traditional education prepared young people to become respected and honoured members of society, western education equipped them to take specific career roles in the administration of their society. However, whereas traditional education limits young people’s prospects in the human resource limitless society, it imparts in them the human touch of interaction and understanding of who they are and their role in the society as pertains respect and order. On the other hand, western education, fails at creating the needed bond within the society to create amiable environment for bringing up children. My belief is that, both the traditional and modern education should be merged for the sake of building a more embracing society.



    1. Rashi, refer to my previous posts for the setting. However, for a sneak preview, the book is set among the Luo of Sakwa, Yimbo, Aluor and further to embrace urban life in Nakuru and Nairobi. It also takes us to the retired life of Mark and Elizabeth Sigu in Njoro.

  1. please help out to this questions ;
    feminism and plight of women in the river and the source .
    or simply redirect me to a page if the question’s already done

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