On the cusp of Tanzania’s general election, St Jude’s secondary school students have seen their own democracy in action.

Senior secondary students Farida and Victor, have been elected by their peers as Head Girl and Head Boy at our secondary (Smith) campus for the coming year.

And they certainly embody the St Jude’s vision for community-focused leaders.

“I know I am good enough to lead the people,” 20-year-old Victor said, after his successful campaign.

“I have always been around the people and I wanted to be their leader to address their needs. I want everyone at The School of St Jude to enjoy being here, to the point where, when the students go on holiday, they can’t wait to return as the school will be a very wonderful place.”

Leading the way: New Head Boy Victor, seen here in action, plans to do the best he can for his fellow students.
Leading the way: New Head Boy Victor, seen here in action, plans to do the best he can for his fellow students.

Farida said she was keen to make an impact.

“I can bring change by being fair to (the students’) matters,” the 19-year-old explained.

“I can make a change in school, and will gain many leadership skills.”

Numerous St Jude’s senior students ran for office, complete with a week of campaigning, and the results were announced last month.

“The whole school participated in weighing in on who will be their Head Girl,” Farida said.

Victor and Farida were given valuable guidance from the former Head Boy Sifuni, and former Head Girl Amina.

“(Amina) told me I’m supposed to have a positive relationship with everyone, including my fellow leaders, for this will make it easier to relate to them and talk about their matters,” Farida said.

Amina said their roles were about “motivating people and making promises you can fulfill”.

“I enjoyed it but there are a lot of challenges,” she said.

Responsible leadership: New Head Girl Farida hopes to use her position to help her fellow students.
Responsible leadership: New Head Girl Farida hopes to use her position to help her fellow students.

Victor, meanwhile, shadowed Sifuni to get the edge over his fellow candidates.

“I spent most of the time with him even before election, collecting some advice and ideas,” he said.

“(During campaigning) I explained what I will do for them; improve their welfare at the school and that sort of thing.”

Sifuni said the responsibilities of the Heads have increased recently and now include advising students, ensuring uniforms are neat and tidy, classrooms clean and students disciplined.

“When we were elected, we convinced the school management to give us more power over students and in decision making,” Sifuni explained.

“The management saw it was a good idea and they trusted us, so our responsibilities were extended.”

Farida and Victor said they expected the roles to improve their confidence and leadership skills immensely, and were both aware that it would not be an easy ride.

Victor was diplomatic in explaining how they would handle the challenges.

“You know some students don’t want to understand and follow school rules,” he said.

“I know this will be some of the difficulties but I am prepared to face them. We have different ways and if (a problem) is too big for me to handle I will pass that to the management and they should be able to offer some help.”

He said school ideals were also reflected in the Head Boy and Head Girl roles.

“We are about bringing the new leaders of Tanzania. It is part of the school passion to create future Tanzanian leaders,” he said.

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Overcoming adversity is what St Jude’s is all about, and with the help of some dedicated individuals, senior primary student Lightness is proving that nothing can stop her from achieving her potential.

Due to cerebral palsy, Lightness is unable to use her hands, even for the most basic of tasks. Amazingly, the cheery 13-year-old has adapted to learn, eat – and even paint! - with her feet.

Lightness’ determination and the support she has received through the school network means her future is bright, despite being in a country experiencing severe poverty and a lack of services for people with disabilities.

It all began when St Jude’s sponsor and former special education teacher Noela Phillips heard of Lightness’s plight.

Medical testing

The Brisbane resident reached out to Brisbane High-Rise Rotary Club’s former President and CEO of Cerebral Palsy League of Queensland (CPL), Angela Tillmanns, who was about to embark on a Rotary visit to St Jude’s.

Angela understood how specialized equipment could make a huge difference to Lightness’ life, and aided the Rotary club’s donation of an iPad to help her learning.

“On meeting Lightness, and seeing her determination to be the best she could be, it was easy to get involved,” recalled Angela.

“It was amazing watching her use her hands to make things happen on the iPad that we had taken with us. It was a great way to demonstrate to Lightness what was possible with new technology.”


The Tillmann’s family, backed by the expertise of CPL, are also helping Lightness reach her dream of one day being confident enough to eat alongside her peers, as she currently has lunch with the school nurse in her office.

Lightness is trialing a specially-designed spoon which attaches to her wrist, and with lots of practice supported by the St Jude’s Community Relations team, we hope one day she may be able to feed herself.

The Tillmann’s family covered the cost of CPL occupational therapist, John Pashen, to help buy the correct equipment and make sure Lightness and her teachers had the support to use it effectively.

“John supports many people living in remote areas of Queensland via Skype and has developed good skills in assisting people with disabilities via this communication method, so we had great confidence that he would be able to help Lightness and the staff at St Jude’s,” Angela said.

Brisbane GP Dr Gordon Mor, who is part of a medical team that visits St Jude’s for annual student checkups, also delivered some additional equipment for Lightness.

“Dr Mor took a large bag of equipment over to Lightness to trial, and brought back those items that were not suitable. It is important to trial a wide range of equipment so we can get the best fit between the person and the technology,” Angela said.

Based on Mr Pashen’s advice, the Tillmanns also provided two specially-designed computer keyboards to enable Lightness to access computers at the same rate as her peers. She currently sits on a specially-built seat with her toes operating a larger-than-average keyboard. One day she hopes to master a special keyboard with a device strapped to her hands, whilst sitting in a seat beside her classmates. A Community Relations team member gives Lightness private lessons twice a week to help improve.


Dr Pashen said he found working with Lightness inspiring as she is so motivated, shows a willingness to try new technology and persevere with it.

“When we visited Lightness she proudly explained that she wanted to be an artist,” Angela said. “Her work was exceptional so she definitely has a future there. However, with her academic ability, excellent English communication skills and the right equipment and support, she could definitely be a professional such as an accountant or lawyer.”


Read more about Rotary's involvement in The School of St Jude.