Standing outside what will soon be the new girls' secondary school at St Jude’s, is a young woman and former graduate student named Irene. She is wearing a white t-shirt that says, ‘TAKE ME BACK TO SCHOOL’ in bold writing.
As part of Irene’s university studies, she was asked to think of an initiative that would give back to her community. Her idea: a program called ‘Take Me Back to School’.
Earlier this year, Irene saw a group of children hanging out in her neighbourhood during school hours.
“There were a lot of kids roaming around,” says Irene. “So I asked them - why don’t you go to school?”
They told her that they couldn’t afford pens, books or uniforms. Whilst secondary education is now officially free in Tanzania, costs like these, in addition to exam fees and having to supply or pay for their own food means that families often struggle to keep their children in school. Less than 30% of children in Tanzania are attending secondary school.
This is a situation that Irene is determined to change.
“This project is my first big shot,” says Irene, who was raised locally in Moshono. “It’s basically a program touching two parts of society at the same time – school students and young adults.”
The first stage of her project is delivering a four-day workshop, with invited guest speakers and group activities. The project is designed to help young adults develop their own business ideas, offering support and equipping them to be successful young entrepreneurs.
“For the young adults, [Take Me Back to School] is a workshop, that deals with leadership, communication, team building, team work, and entrepreneurship,” says Irene.
Guest speaker and local businessman, Edward Lazarro, shared his experience of starting his own business and focused on the process behind generating ideas.On the final day, the 25 attendees presented their own business ideas to a panel of judges, using tools they had learnt in the workshops.
Their brief was that all ideas needed to be creative and sustainable, fit the needs of the community and be engaging. One pitch was ‘Save the Planet’, an idea to form partnerships with organisations to combat climate change by planting species of trees that take less time to grow and are low cost.
Vivian, Beyond St Jude’s Coordinator, was invited to be a guest judge on the panel and was impressed by Irene’s workshop.
“She could have done anything, gone anywhere with this project,” says Vivian. “But for her to think to create something for the St Jude’s graduates, and other young people in the local community, was so amazing.”
The next stage of Irene’s project is to help the children she saw on her street, supplying them with uniforms and textbooks and helping them get back into school.
But first, Irene will return to the United States International University in Kenya, where she is studying a Bachelor’s degree in International Business Administration.
Long term, she has an even bigger project in the pipeline – to help young, single mothers.
In the meantime, Irene looks around the bustling room where her workshop is humming with activity, not just from the attendees, but also from a group of workmen that are busily moving desks, shelves, and books.
As of January next year, this room will become the library in the new, all-girls secondary school and 400 girls will step into her place, beginning their journey to become the Irene’s of tomorrow.
You can support our students to become the Irene’s of tomorrow by sponsoring a student’s academic scholarship today.