It is with deep sadness that we share the news that Sue Rice, mother of our Founder, Gemma Sisia, died peacefully on March 6, 2024. May her soul rest in eternal peace.

Flowers are welcome, or in lieu of flowers, the Rice family invites donations in Sue’s memory to The School of St Jude. Follow the link below to find the donation details.

You can also leave a message of condolence that our team will pass on to Gemma and her family.

The funeral is being held at Armidale on the 23rd March. If you'd like to attend, please see the details below or refer to the funeral notice here for all information about the funeral.

Saturday, 23 March – 10 am
De Salle Chapel - O’Connor Catholic College,
37 Kirkwood Street, Armidale

Sue was a faithful mother of eight children, a grandmother and great-grandmother, who worked tirelessly to care for her family and loved ones. She was a dedicated physiotherapist, rehabilitating stroke survivors.  Along with her late husband, Basil Rice, Sue sacrificed much to ensure all her children were well-educated and nurtured.  The couple held big dreams for their children, instilling work ethic, faith and values in them, and the belief that a good education is a great gift. The School of St Jude grew from this belief.

Indeed, it was Sue Rice who, during a kitchen table conversation more than 20 years ago, first suggested our school’s tagline: Fighting Poverty Through Education. Basil’s legacy, too, is enduring; he helped Gemma to establish the East African Fund in the late 1990s and bring her dream of building a school for the poor, into practical reality.

With support from such strong parents, it is no surprise that Gemma grew up with a fierce determination to make a difference, and shared their belief in the power of education to fight poverty. Without initial backing from Sue and Basil Rice, and their unwavering support for Gemma’s vision, The School of St Jude would not be what it is today.

All at The School of St Jude are forever grateful to Sue, who sacrificed precious years, memories and milestones with her only daughter so that Gemma could fight poverty in East Africa. Fortunately, Sue visited St Jude’s at the beginning of 2023. Her final visit to Tanzania was a culmination of love and pride for all that Gemma has accomplished, and by extension, the whole Rice family, who have supported the school in a myriad of ways over the years.

As you may know, Gemma is currently in Australia for her annual promotional tour, spreading the word about St Jude’s and celebrating 22 years of success with supporters. Gemma has spoken many times about ‘St Jude’s moments’; favourable coincidences that occur during challenging times. Sue Rice passed away on Gemma’s only scheduled day in her hometown, Armidale, and Gemma sees it as a blessing from St Jude that she and members of her family were with Sue in her final moments – holding their mother in the same spirit of care and love that she gave them throughout their lives.

We have created a virtual condolence book via a Google Form. You are welcome to leave your messages of condolence, and our team will collate them to pass them onto Gemma and her family. You can also donate in Sue’s memory to The School of St Jude. Find the donations details here. Your support will honour Sue's dedication to fighting poverty through education.

We are sure you will be joining us in Tanzania, Australia, the United States and around the world in offering our love, thoughts and prayers to the Rice family.

Thank you all for your kindness and support.

Favourite Spot on Campus: St Jude’s students relaxing at a Kimbweta.


[Kim-bweh-tah] Noun. Singular 

Kimbweta refers to the wooden or concrete slabs found outside college and university campuses that students may use for personal studies, group discussions, or just catching up socially. You can see many examples of the Kimbweta across St Jude’s three campuses; where our students, staff and visitors sit, interact and refresh.


The name “Kimbweta” has a fascinating origin dating back to the mid-1990s at Tanzania’s prestigious University of Dar es Salaam. At that time, the university faced a recurring issue of thieves targeting outdoor studying furniture for students. Seeking a permanent solution, Prof Kimbwete, a dedicated lecturer, proposed replacing vulnerable outdoor furniture with sturdy concrete slabs.

The initiative was highly successful, and these new concrete slabs quickly gained popularity, becoming widely known as “Kimbwete” (singular) or “Vimbwete” (plural) after Prof Kimbwete. Over time, the name evolved to the singular form “Kimbweta” and has been widely adopted in universities and educational institutions across the country.

Example sentences

Let’s meet at the Kimbweta after school.

I like doing my personal studies at the Kimbweta during school breaks.

Kimbweta is my favourite place to be after class hours!