Poverty in Tanzania is endemic. Ranked 199 out of 229 nations in the world for GDP per capita, as a nation Tanzania is unable to provide its children with a quality education. The government school system is overstretched, under-resourced, and produces poor educational outcomes for Tanzanian society.
St Jude’s provides a free, high-quality education to children who — due to poverty and social pressures — would otherwise be unlikely to complete their schooling. Drawn from families who often live on less than $1.25 per day, the pupils of St Jude’s are shining examples of what students can achieve when they are given the opportunity to receive a quality education.
Since 2002 we have added 150 students to the school each year and in 2015 the first senior class from The School of St Jude will graduate from Form 6. We are working towards a model that supports our students through tertiary education and completing the mission to create the next generation of Tanzanian leaders.
St Jude’s has an amazing story, read on to understand what makes us different.
The way we do things at St Jude’s is different. With generous and ongoing support from individuals and institutions around the world we have built an exceptional educational institution and the largest charity-funded school in Africa of its kind. Every single one of our students was chosen because they combined academic promise with a desperately poor background and a great attitude to work. We feed them, house them, educate them, and do everything possible to ensure our students’ wellbeing and future success. As a result we have three campuses filled with happy and healthy children in a country where children frequently drop out of school.
Everything we do is for the children, and to produce successful academic and welfare outcomes. Each child we invite into the school represents another family who has the opportunity to escape the cycle of poverty. Due to resources we are limited to 150 students each year so in order to ensure we are selecting children who meet out criteria, each year we run a rigorous student selection process.
Our policy is to accept only one student from a family. This means that 150 families each year will benefit from having a well-educated child who can then assist them in the future.
A range of welfare, educational, and nutritional benefits are achieved by the provision of boarding facilities. As of Grade 5, St Jude’s students begin boarding at the Moivaro Campus and continue through secondary school at the Smith Campus. Students are provided with their own bed, mosquito net, breakfast and dinner along with running water and consistent electricity. Boarding parents supervise our students and provide extra homework sessions and extra curricular activities.
Unfortunately, childhood malnutrition is common in Tanzania, but at St Jude’s our team of 43 Tanzanian cooks and kitchen staff work hard to produce nutritious meals, with a menu featuring seasonal produce which often comes from our school gardens and plantation. Dishes include rice or ugali (maize), with beans, lentils, cabbage, okra and other vegetables.
With over 2,000 mouths to feed every day at lunch, and approximately 1,100 who eat breakfast and dinner at boarding — the school goes through a mountain of vegetables, fruit, rice and maize. St Jude’s sources all its produce from local suppliers with our Purchasing Team visiting the local markets several times each week to ensure that all food is as fresh as possible.
In addition to our healthy meals, our students also receive an annual medical check from volunteer nurses and doctors, checking eyesight, monitoring height and weight, and looking for any potential health issues. In addition, students receive education on simple matters such as nutrition, asthma and dental hygiene.
St Judes’s also has a Welfare Team with five full-time medical officers, based at each of the three campuses and the two boarding campuses. The Welfare Team work within the school community to identify and help with any problems at home or at the school. In the past the Welfare Team has helped with problems including abuse, lack of food at home, alcoholic family members, or neglect. The school, parents and Parent’s Committee work closely together to ensure the safety and wellbeing of all at St Jude’s.
The School of St Jude is facilitating changes in traditional community mindsets. In Africa, girls are often considered second class citizens and many families believe that it is a waste of time educating them, putting a lot of pressure on girls to drop out of school.
St Jude’s firmly believes in the education of girls. The school does not discriminate when selecting students although over the years St Jude’s has educated more female than male students. Our female teachers and leaders are strong role models, and the school’s welfare team works through any issues of discrimination, both with the students and their families.
Equally, St Jude’s does not discriminate along religious or tribal lines, and has students of Christian, Muslim, and other faiths coming from 35 different African tribes.
The St Jude’s Parents Committee is the link between our community and the school, managing issues related to students and their families. If teachers notice a change in behaviour or performance with a student the Parent’s Committee investigates — to see whether financial or other support can be extended to help with the student’s family and home life. Our Parents Committee consists of 49 members. They meet regularly and it is chaired by Fausta Alfayo.
Of our 453 local Tanzanian staff, 201 are teachers working across all three school campuses. These teachers are chosen for their strong teaching qualifications, high aptitude in English language, and commitment to their students. Every day we seek to improve their skills through our novel Teacher Mentoring system, where highly experienced international teachers volunteer to support and develop local staff.
St Jude’s is an English Medium School, teaching all lessons (except Kiswahili!) in English. The School teaches an integrated and enriched version of the Tanzanian National Curriculum, and encourages active participation from students to develop their confidence and ability to work with peers. Our classroom environments are colourful and well resourced with up-to-date teaching materials.
St Jude’s has worked hard to stock our three libraries with quality, age-appropriate books. Through generous donations of books and funding from our donors we have built a wonderful collection of books, DVDs and CDs which now has more than 30,000 items, not including textbooks.
We are focused on making our libraries reading centres and catalysts for literacy in the school community. Our Jungle Reading Club at Lower Primary provides students with English-language workbooks to take home over the school holidays, so they maintain their own English language development while also allowing them to teach their siblings and pass on knowledge.
Students and staff at St Jude’s have access to 350 computers across our three campuses and boarding facilities. From the time they enter the school, St Jude’s students are encouraged to use computers for writing and research, preparing them for life in the professional world.
St Jude’s offers specialist academic streams including science and mathematics which are both highly popular with our secondary students at Smith Campus. With eight state of the art science labs (four for A-level and four for O-level) St Jude’s produces exceptionally high academic results in this area. Our star science students have ambitions to be Scientists and Engineers — essential professions for the future of East Africa.
Along with ICT training, The School of St Jude provides interest-free loans for its teachers to use for purchasing IT equipment! We want our staff to be computer literate.
The School of St Jude has an iconic and much loved fleet of colourful buses transporting students and staff daily. Since there is no government assistance for transport and public transport is not always safe and reliable, the school purchases and maintains its own buses. Our fleet transports students and staff from up to 45km away, saving everyone from an otherwise arduous trek over long distances. The buses also ensure a higher attendance rate from students during Tanzania’s annual rainy season, when it’s difficult to get around.
The original land for St Jude’s was donated by the local Sisia Family, and the school maintains close links to the Arusha community. In 2013 St Jude’s employs over 450 local staff — headmasters, teachers, cooks, cleaners, builders, mechanics, office staff, drivers, guards, and gardeners. Local products are bought for meals, uniforms, buildings and furnishings to support the local community and economy as much as possible.
In 2012 St Jude’s injected over $5 million into the East African economy, with the majority of the money being spent in the Arusha region. Many of St Jude’s staff and suppliers who live in the area have invested back into their community and Moshono (where our Sisia campus is) has grown to become an official area of Arusha. Today the standard of living is better than it ever has been before, shops have opened, roads have improved and electricity has arrived.
St Jude’s fleet of 22 buses quite literally go the extra mile during school hours, transporting students, teachers and other staff between the Moshono, Moivaro and Usa River campuses, picking up fresh produce from local suppliers, collecting school equipment and building materials, taking students to medical appointments, driving visitors around town and providing transport for school excursions.
I was impressed with Gemma's strong desire to provide education for poor children of Tanzania and her dedication to make it happen. One day, I hope to be able to visit the school myself. Until then, I will follow its progress closely and send my best wishes to the dedicated teachers and staff who are associated with it. Theresa Rein, Business woman and wife of former Australian Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd
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