Wearing his crisp, brand new uniform, Form 5 student William flashes a radiant smile as he admires the facilities at his new school. It’s his first day at St Jude’s, where he will spend the next two years completing secondary school, an achievement that less than one in three Tanzanian teenagers will achieve this year. “I can’t believe the resources and the library! The school that I came from is very different from this one, we had no library and very few teachers,” the charismatic teenager reflected.
William is one of 30 new Form 5 students who have been chosen in a rigorous selection process run by St Jude’s Community Relations team.
The newly selected students have been identified as the brightest, but poorest, students from under-resourced government schools in three regions of Northern Tanzania – Arusha, Kilimanjaro and Manyara.
It’s difficult to comprehend the enormity of these successful students’ achievement to have made it this far in their education. Almost exclusively the first in their family to complete Form 4, they were the top scoring students in their local government school.
All this, despite the added pressures of long walks to and from school every day, fitting in homework around necessary household tasks like fetching water and having only candlelight or kerosene lamps by which to study by, they are breaking new ground.
“Life has been hard, in my community children are sent out to herd livestock and there is never time to study. I am looking forward to making my education a priority,” William reflected.
It’s also the first time William has a cosy bed of his own, hot water for bathing, three nutritious meals a day and electric lighting for studying, as part of staying in the Smith boarding house during school terms.
“In my Massai community I share a bed with all of my four siblings and access to water and electricity is hard. My parents did not go to school and, because of the hardships my family are facing, two of my younger siblings are not in school now because of the cost. I would like to use this opportunity to be a good example to my family and community and help them in the future,” William continued.
Despite the Smith Secondary Campus being a long way from home – it’s over three hours’ drive from William’s mud-hut boma in the Manyara region – he’s now closer than ever to reaching his dream.
“I see myself doing well in my final exams and getting into a good university. I would love to be a doctor as I don’t like seeing people suffering, so I want to help improve the medical services here in Tanzania,” William shared.
Joining him in that dream is fellow new student, Elizabeth, who wants to help lift her family out of a life of poverty by entering the medical field as well.
She is all too familiar with the challenges of everyday life at home for her family as they only have access to river water for drinking and are unable to pay for her sibling’s secondary school fees.
“I am going to study hard so I do not have to live the life that my parents are living at the moment. Their income cannot support our family so being selected to St Jude’s is my only opportunity to get an education and achieve my dreams. I am so excited,” Elizabeth beamed.
That excitement is evident during the induction sessions held during the first week of term which help each Form 5 student adapt to their new surroundings and the timetable of their new life.
“I think I will be very happy here. I am ready to start classes, grow my knowledge and I have even made friends on the first day,” Elizabeth said.
Both students are already joining in the large range of extracurricular activities offered to St Jude’s students like art, sport and even the school choir for William.
They are now presented with so many opportunities to achieve and become the future leaders of Tanzania, fighting poverty with their education.
“I never thought I would end up somewhere like St Jude’s, it’s hard to put into words what the school already means to me and my family,” Elizabeth shared quietly before entering her first science class.
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