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At 22 years old Gemma Sisia travelled to Uganda to volunteer as a teacher, where she taught girls maths and sewing. This experience led to a fervent belief that a free, high-quality education should be the right of all children in the world and that education is the strongest weapon in the fight against poverty, corruption and political instability.

Upon returning to her native Australia, Gemma fundraised to help underprivileged children in East Africa complete their schooling. She would raise enough money to start an official fund to invest in the education of East Africa’s poorest children. Along with the gift of a small plot of land in Arusha, Tanzania, Gemma began to build The School of St Jude with the help of friends, family and Rotary groups.

Q & A with Gemma

Gemma Sisia



St Jude’s becomes a full school

  • The first class of Form 6 students started in May, giving St Jude’s a class in every grade.
  • The building program, which spanned more than a decade, was finally completed
  • The School Boards (both local and international) approved the St Jude’s Beyond High School Program, which will see our students continue on to their Community Service year and further education after successfully completing Form 6.

New Director appointed

  • School Director, Jon Ford, was appointed and joined the team in September
  • Felix Mollel was the first Tanzanian staff member to officially travel overseas to represent St Jude’s and promote the school
  • Our Form 4 exam results placed St Jude’s 3rd in the region and 20th in the nation
  • In December, the school building program finished with our final two boarding houses completed at Smith Campus
Jon Ford appointed Director
Happy 10th anniversary!

Ten year anniversary

St Jude’s celebrates its ten year anniversary, and is providing quality education to over 1,500 students.

Campus dedications

  • Moshono campus is dedicated to the Sisia family, becoming Sisia Primary Campus
  • Usa River campus is dedicated to the Smith family, becoming Smith Secondary Campus
The Smith family are honored
Medical checks

Over 850,000 meals served

  • A worldwide appeal for a new sportsground raises over $115,000
  • St Jude’s provides over 850,000 meals this year

Arusha inter-school sports champs

  • St Jude’s educates over 1,300 students (with 900 in boarding) and employs over 340 local staff.
  • St Jude’s wins the Arusha inter-school sports competition
  • Form 2 students are ranked third out of 302 schools in the Tanzanian National Exams North West zone
  • The school now has a fleet of 20 buses
Inaugural Science Day
St Jude's students participate in World AIDS Day

Secondary school opens

  • The secondary school opens with 51 students in Form 1
  • 150 staff and students are invited to dinner with President Kikwete
  • The GFC affects St Jude’s and 47 staff are retrenched
  • End of year ceremony has 4,000 staff, students and parents attending
  • St Jude’s now has three Tanzanian headmasters
  • Gemma is featured on Australian Story (ABC) for the second time

Usa River campus opens

  • Usa River campus opens with 500 students
  • St Jude’s educates 989 students and employs 330 local staff
  • The first Standard 7 class sit the Tanzanian National Exams, all are placed in the top 10% of the country
  • School buses travel up to 40km for staff and students every day
Usa River Campus grand opening
Gemma with the Govenor-General

Moivaro boarding campus opens

  • Moivaro Boarding Campus opens to 300 students
  • St Jude’s educates over 850 students and employs 127 local staff
  • Gemma’s book St Jude’s is launched in Australia
  • Gemma receives an Order of Australia award

662 students, 114 staff

  • St Jude’s educates 662 students and employs 114 local staff
  • Thirty acres of land is purchased at Usa River for a second campus
St Jude's Day performance

Standard 4 students ranked 3rd out of 204 schools

  • The first Standard 4 students sit Tanzania’s National Exam. The school is ranked third out of 204 schools in the district, with an average mark of 90.8%.
  • Gemma is featured on Australian Story (ABC)
  • The Parents’ Committee now has 20 members
  • Richard Pagliaro helps to create the school’s website, connecting the school to the world

Hot lunches introduced

  • St Jude’s educates 423 students and employs over 80 local staff
  • The school bus fleet now numbers eight
  • Hot lunches are introduced for students and staff
  • A bore hole is drilled to get clean water for the school
Hot lunches are introducted
Edina, one of our first sponsored students

120 students, 23 staff

St Jude’s educates 120 students and employs 23 local staff.


First day of school

The School of St Jude opens with three students.

St Jude's first volunteer, Angela Bailey, with the first students
Gemma and Kim hard at work

School board and parents’ committee

  • The school board is formed
  • The Parents’ Committee is formed with five parents

Gemma moves to Tanzania

Gemma moves permanently to Tanzania to prepare the school for opening.

Gemma and Richard in the library
First new block

Rotary volunteers arrive

The first Rotary building team arrives from Armidale, Australia to build the first classroom.


Land gifted for school

Daniel Sisia gives land to Richard and Gemma on which to build a school.

The original block of land

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