US President Harry S. Truman famously once said, “not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.” As St Jude’s Standard 1s learn to read and explore their first stories, they are taking their first steps towards leadership.
The literacy rate of Tanzania is reported by IndexMundi at less than 70%. Reading is not just a basic skill needed for everyday life but is also an avenue to develop critical thinking, imagination and even ambition.
While the wonder of leafing through a book remains an all-too rare experience for some students in Tanzania, St Jude’s students are given every opportunity to expand their imaginations and skills. They can feel the warm glow of having a book and a space that is wholly theirs, and into which they can escape.
Standard 1 student, Agape, smiles when she remembers the first time she saw the rows of books that line the walls of the library at Sisia Primary Campus at the start of the year.
The first book that caught her eye was Bilby Moon by Margaret Spurling, where little Bilby's quest for the missing moon takes her on a journey of wonder and discovery.
“I like to learn about animals and reading helps me learn new words. I can’t wait to move up to the bigger books. It’s so quiet in the library, it’s really nice for reading,” Agape shared quietly, looking up from her book.
Her classmate, Shedrack, was engrossed in an early learner maths book, X Marks the Spot, by Lucille Recht Penner which he chose on his first visit to the library this year.
In the book, Shedrack followed characters Jake and Leo who reluctantly move into their grandfather's old house where they receive a mysterious postcard about treasure maps in the attic. Books like this give students a chance to learn some beginner mathematics while also enjoying a treasure hunt story!
These entry level books are just two of the many that fill the libraries at both the primary and secondary campuses. To maximise the potential of these valuable assets, the library collections have been reviewed to determine which areas need most development.
Importantly, the school is also installing a new web-based library management system. Visiting librarian, Judy Gillespie, is assisting the staff with this major transition.
“The new system offers a more flexible and tailored method of finding suitable books for all students. By improving the cataloguing of books and allowing greater search options, the librarians can help students like Agape and Shedrack find the books that interest them and suit their reading level.”
It is generous supporters who have helped build our libraries over the years, bringing donated books with them from all across the world. Now, our team of librarians say the greatest need is for higher level non-fiction books, to help students access the latest information for their studies and explore other interests having established a love for reading in their early years.
“St Jude’s has some amazing books however, it needs more subject books to meet the local curriculum, particularly in the secondary school. Expanding the collection of African fiction is a priority too because it’s important for the students to read books that reflect their culture and experience. With the new system, the librarians can also explore the possibility of students accessing ebooks, meaning more students can read the same book at the same time and have the most up-to-date information.” Judy explained.
While the library is one of the quietest places on campus, it is within these walls that students develop their ideas and aspirations. If education is to lift our students out of poverty, it means they need to imagine another world and have the skills to excel in it, and that starts with reading their first book and the many that follow. Thanks to those who help give the gift of literacy to the 1,800 students here, they are on the way to becoming the future leaders of tomorrow.
Help us broaden students’ imaginations and skills by donating today, so our library staff can purchase the books that are most needed.
Standing in the departure hall in Kilimanjaro International Airport, Catherine and Erick, St Jude’s graduates from the class of 2018, are about to embark on an educational experience of a lifetime.
They are two of the four St Jude’s interns from our Beyond St Jude’s program who’ve been offered fully funded scholarships to top universities around the world, as part of St Jude’s partnership with the MasterCard Foundation. “After I found out I had been selected, I sat for a minute, thanking God. I didn’t expect it because there were a lot of candidates actually,” Catherine recalled.
The 22 year-old credits St Jude’s for changing the direction of her life and helping her family look forward to a better future.
“My first government school teacher actually encouraged me to study hard so I would be accepted, as she could see the value of St Jude’s. I had no motivation to go to secondary school when I was younger but St Jude’s changed that for me, it opened up my way of thinking and seeing life. I began to realise I could actually achieve my dream at some point,” Catherine admits.
That dream of completing a business degree is only a few years away from becoming a reality, with her education costs covered and a laptop, mobile phone, visas and flights also paid for as part of the scholarship.
Like St Jude’s, the MasterCard Foundation believes in supporting future leaders. After her graduation from the United States International University – Africa in Nairobi, Kenya, Catherine will return to Tanzania so that she can invest her knowledge locally.
“There are a lot of opportunities, but the people don’t have the knowledge to make ventures successful. So by me taking a business degree I feel like I will be able to actually help others to run successful businesses,” Catherine proudly shares.
Packed in her suitcases bound for Kenya, is a reminder of those people.
“Someone very special bought me a Tanzanian crown and it’s going to remind me of home as it has the Tanzanian flag and it’s Maasai made, which is important to me because my mum is half Maasai,” Catherine said, holding the treasured gift.
The crown will travel with Catherine as she reaches many milestones, her first plane flight, her first time outside Tanzania and, in a few years’ time when she finishes her degree, the first person in her family to graduate from university.
This major achievement will be shared by fellow MasterCard scholar, Erick.
“I am the first in my family to go to university, they are very excited. I had to explain to my mum what university is. I want to work hard so my young sisters do not face the same problem,” Erick explained.
The 20-year-old will study a Bachelor of Accounting in Botswana, after completing a one-month induction at the University of Rochester in New York with other MasterCard scholars. It’s a world away from the government school Erick attended before starting at St Jude’s in 2012, where there were 70 students in a class and three to a desk.
“I am looking forward to meeting people who will challenge my views on life and learn from them. I want to use my degree to begin an accounting firm and boost jobs in Tanzania,” Erick beams.
Whilst excited, Erick is also preparing himself for some cultural differences he might face both on his trip to America and when settling into university life in Botswana.
“My fellow St Jude’s alumni who are already studying abroad have told me that the food can be a challenge because it is different to what we’re used to, so I’ll have to adapt to that,” Erick laughed.
But with each challenge, both Erick and Catherine will have the support of the St Jude’s community, through the Alumni Association, and of course through the combined effort of thousands of generous St Jude’s supporters worldwide.
“I will miss this place; it has been my home - but I’ll be back. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for me,” Catherine added.
Would you like to support a St Jude’s student to become a leader of the future? Sponsor the academic scholarship of an emerging leader today!