This past Saturday marked another historic achievement in The School of St Jude timeline: our very first Form 4 graduation! It was a remarkable day that our oldest students will look back on years from now with great satisfaction. As St Jude's has grown over the last ten years, it has been our Form 4 students who have paved the way - through trial and error, mistakes and successes - for all succeeding classes to follow.

They have been our experimental class to improve our methods and curriculum, as well as fine tune the inner machinations of St Jude's. And they've handled it all with grace and a smile, going above and beyond what is been expected of them both in and out of the classroom.

We're incredibly proud of them as they advance on to Form 5. In this guest blog post we welcome back Jane Wall, the Academic Head of St Jude's, who reports on Saturday's F4 graduation and where exactly our new graduates go from here. 

Follow Jane on Twitter, @janewall.

By Jane Wall

We have just seen our first F4 graduation ceremony – and what a momentous occasion that was.  The event was full of typical colour, enthusiasm and energy but also there was a dignity and maturity which befitted such an occasion. The Hall was filled with pride from the moment the students put on their new uniforms for the first time and led the priest through the capacity crowd of parents, teachers, fellow students, and invited guests. The students received awards for excellent achievement across the curriculum and distributed awards to teachers and non-academic staff for their contribution and support.

We already know that these students are going to achieve great success – a number of them came top across a region of 323 schools in the recent mock exams – but the ceremony also showcased so much talent outside the classroom from speakers, singers, dancers and actors all so confidently taking to the stage demonstrating skills of leadership, teamwork, cooperation and communication. There is no doubt that an education at The School of St Jude has changed the lives of these students and their families in a way that probably only Gemma dreamed of when the school first started.

Another exciting aspect of the ceremony was the coming together of so many groups of people who for many varying reasons have some interest in the school – including representatives from the St Jude Limited board, the East Africa Fund, the Secondary School Board and the Parent Committees. There were representatives from the District and the Regional Education Offices – who were able to see for the first time the school, its students, staff and facilities, and there were visitors from other schools, both staff and students, plus local businesses and colleges. It was great to see them together, in one room, sharing their interests, ideas and common passion for improving the quality of education. It is our hope that these links will continue to grow, especially as we move forward in to the next stage of development and begin to look for tertiary opportunities for our graduating students and ways of increasing our influence way beyond the walls of our campuses.

The F4 students are excellent role models to the rest of the school – hardworking, ambitious and very determined. In 2013 most, if not all, will return to the school to begin their pre-University 2 year Advanced Level studies. Here in Tanzania students have to select from a number of three subject combinations, plus Basic Applied Maths, General Studies, and at The School of St Jude, Religion and ICT. They are required to pass the F4 exams and, at The School of St Jude, to achieve a Div 1 or 2 – which basically means A’s and B’s in all subjects. This year the most popular combinations are those which include Maths, Physics and Chemistry – which bodes well for the future of the country given that any developing country needs good scientists. Other students are doing Business or Social Studies combinations.

Significant plans are underway for the commencement of the A Level programme. 20 new teachers have been appointed, all of whom are degree holders and who travelled from all over the country to interview at the school. They are all really excited to be joining the academic team and will be given time at the beginning of the year to plan, prepare and receive professional development. New appointments to the leadership team have been made, including a teacher to oversee the F5 students, a Career Guidance Counsellor and a very experienced mentor to develop a Student Resource Centre for helping students to find the most appropriate career pathways and tertiary opportunities. Four more Science labs and additional classrooms are being constructed and plans for a more mature boarding environment are being completed, along with access to private study facilities in the evenings.

The Graduation Ceremony may have marked the end of the first ten years of an excellent education for our F4 students, but it also symbolized the beginning of the next exciting chapter in the story of The School of St Jude.