At least once a week, Hamisi, a college student pursuing a Diploma in Computer Science and Technology, sets out from his college in downtown Arusha to a government school on the fringe of the city. Once at the school, he leads training sessions for teachers in the use computer programs such as Microsoft Excel and Word.
“Our school has close to 5,000 students,” explains Ms Dorothea, a teacher at the school. “Updating, managing, and tracking all students’ data is not an easy task,” she adds.
Initially, Ms Dorothea and her team would manually fill the students’ data one by one into their school’s system, an arduous process that took days and sometimes weeks to complete.
“Thankfully, a young man showed up for a volunteering spell at our school and showed us the powerful automation of computers,” says Dorothea excitedly. “With Excel, for instance, we could compile and grade examination results within a day or two – a task that used to take us at least a week of exhausting work,” she explains.
Hamisi first arrived at the government school as one of the 35 volunteers sent to assist under-resourced government schools around Arusha as part of the Alternative Pathways Program (APP) for Form 4 graduates of St Jude’s.
In Tanzania, the first four years of secondary school are called Ordinary Level (O Level) studies; from Form 1 to Form 4. These are typically followed by the final two years of secondary education which are called Advanced Level (A Level); Form 5 and 6. The APP allows Form 4 graduates (O Level) to pursue a diploma or certificate at college in place of the traditional St Jude’s A Level pathway through secondary school after a semester of community service.
“During my time at St Jude’s, I developed a deep interest in computer studies,” explains Hamisi. “By the time I graduated Form 4, I was confident in my future career path and promptly opted for APP,” he adds.
His sentiments are echoed by Avity, who coordinates community service for Beyond St Jude’s (BSJ) scholars.
“Although APP was launched rather recently,” explains Avity. “It has become quite popular among Form 4 (O Level) graduates looking for an accelerated route to a career. We started with six students in 2020, and since then more students have been opting for APP,” he adds.
As part of the program, APP scholars volunteer for a semester of community service at a government school ahead of their college studies. They typically assist with administrative tasks, exam marking, tutoring, and other areas of need within the schools.
“Studying at St Jude’s instilled in me the spirit of giving and community service,” says Hamisi. “So, I was very excited at the opportunity to volunteer,” he adds.
This is demonstrated by Hamisi’s willingness to continue volunteering even after completing his Community Service Semester (CSS) and starting college.
In 2023, 29 Form 4 graduates joined the APP, the highest number yet! They are currently volunteering in various placements around government schools in Arusha, and like Hamisi, are beginning to making an impact in the community.
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