St Jude's firmly upholds the principle of equal opportunity for all, regardless of tribe, family, or gender, in accessing education, resources, and opportunities. Over the years the school has taken intentional steps to create a supportive environment where women and girls can thrive and impact their communities.  

First a quick note of the school system here in Tanzania; there are seven years of primary school from Standard 1 to 7, then four years of secondary school called Ordinary Level (O Level) from Form 1 to 4, and then the final two years of secondary school called Advanced Level (A Level), Form 5 and 6.

Here to Help: St Jude’s students waiting in line during the blood drive.

One of the most enduring cultures at St Jude’s is the spirit of compassion and helping those in need. Throughout the year, students and staff support the community in various ways. 

“Every other weekend, our students are out volunteering at an orphanage, cleaning the marketplace, or sharing their skills and knowledge with students from neighbouring schools,” says Focus, a staff and mentor of Interact Club at the school. 

This year, St Jude’s launched another impactful initiative to support the community, particularly patients in need of blood transfusion. In March, the school introduced a bi-annual blood donation drive for eligible staff and students to voluntarily participate.

“We saw the need to step in and help local hospitals around our communities replenish their blood banks,” says Irene, who helped organise a recent blood drive at St Jude’s. “From medical emergencies and accidents, to supporting mothers during childbirths, our hospitals could always use the extra blood units,” she adds.

The first round saw 81 volunteers, including students at St Jude’s Girls’ Secondary School and staff participate in the blood drive. The turnout was so good that it earned St Jude’s special recognition from Arusha’s largest referral hospital as the biggest blood donation drive by a single institution in its history.  

“It was a pleasant surprise,” says Irene excitedly. “We only had a few weeks to organise the drive and had initially estimated the blood drive to only take a few hours. In the end, it lasted the entire day! It was wonderful to see the St Jude’s community coming together once again in support of such an impactful program,” she adds.

Getting Briefed: St Jude’s students at an information session ahead of the blood drive.

The blood donation drive was a collaborative effort between St Jude's welfare and academic teams, with support from Arusha's biggest referral hospital. 

"We wanted to ensure that the drive was organised efficiently," says Irene. “The hospital helped organise an information session for our students and staff ahead of the drive and the school arranged a special lunch for everyone who donated their blood,” she adds.

Fatuma, one of the talented hosts of our monthly podcast, was one of the 63 students at St Jude’s Girls’ Secondary School who participated in the blood drive. Beyond the podcast, she is an incredible athlete aspiring to become a P.E. teacher and understands the importance of donating blood in saving lives.

A Happy Donor: Fatuma smiles as she donates blood at the drive.

“I first learned from my sister, who is a nurse, that blood can be used to help people, particularly mothers during childbirth,” says Fatuma. “So when this opportunity arrived, I immediately volunteered,” she adds excitedly.

It’s also quite fitting that the record-setting blood drive happened at St Jude’s Girls’ Secondary School during a month dedicated to celebrating women. Soon, St Jude’s will conduct another blood drive at Smith Campus and continue supporting local hospitals with extra blood. It’s part of a new tradition at St Jude’s where students and staff unite to save lives.

Happyness is a student at St Jude’s Primary School. She joined the school in 2022 at seven years old and started Standard 4 this year. Happyness loves playing netball and volleyball. Her dream is to become a soldier and protect her country.

Happyness recently spent a month at home for the end-of-year school holidays. We caught up with her about her recent holiday and plans for the new year.

Chips and chicken is my favorite food.

Yes, I set a goal for myself to maintain my current academic performance for A grades in all my subjects. I believe that achieving this will help me improve and succeed in my studies.

I had a great time watching movies and cartoons, and I played with my friends from the neighbourhood.

I really enjoy studying, and this term, I want to put in hard work and do well in my exams.

My favorite activity was playing hide and seek with my cousins. It was so much fun. I also helped with chores at home which made me feel responsible.

Yes, I had a wonderful time visiting my aunt in Karatu. It was a wonderful experience. I enjoyed spending time with my family there.

Fruits of Their Labour: Winkista (left) and Agneta (right) proudly show off the paw paws from the garden.

Every day on her way to school, Winkista walks beside a small garden at the edge of St Jude’s Girls’ Secondary School Campus. The mere sight of the flourishing pawpaw, mango, and avocado fruits at the garden gives her a sense of joy, pride, and motivation to start her day.

“I love the elegance and beauty of plants and vegetation,” says Winkista, a student at St Jude’s Girls’ Secondary School. “So having a garden as the first thing that I see when walking to school is simply the best way to start the day,” she adds.

At St Jude’s, Winkista’s love and passion for gardening found its place at the Entrepreneurship Club, one of the 12 extracurricular clubs where students can join and develop a variety of skills and knowledge in different fields. At the club, she interacts with like-minded students with similar interests and learns the entrepreneurial side of agriculture.

“It is really interesting that I could one day turn my passion into a source of income,” says Winkista. “I have been hearing a lot about the huge potential in agriculture but being at the club has helped me realise this in a practical way. It is one of those things that are best learned when doing,” she adds. 

In Tanzania, agriculture plays a crucial role in the economy. According to data from USAID, Tanzania’s agriculture sector contributes nearly one-third of the country’s GDP and employs nearly 75% of the population. As the main source of food, nutrition, income and employment for the majority, especially rural populations, agriculture holds a lot of potential to increase incomes and improve livelihoods. 

“When the Entrepreneurship Club was started, we knew it had to involve agriculture because it is one of the largest sectors in Tanzania,” reflects Ms Osempia, a teacher at St Jude’s and one of the founders and mentors of the club. “Although students can still learn about entrepreneurship in many other ways, agriculture remains one of the easiest and most affordable entry points for would-be entrepreneurs because of the vast amount of opportunities available in the sector,” she adds. 

Ms Osepmia coordinates with fellow mentors of the club to create a learning structure, and guidance, and oversee all projects under the club. 

Fresh From the Farm: St Jude’s staff posing with fresh paw paws from the garden.

“We train our students to think like an entrepreneur from the start and treat all projects like a business,” says Ms Osempia. “So they learn about planning, budgeting, market research, analysing trends in the market, risk assessment, and so on. Most students love gardening but if they are going to be successful entrepreneurs, they need to learn these principles early on,” she adds. 

The Entrepreneurship Club is one of the most popular and thriving clubs at the school, it currently has over 40 student members.

“It fills me with great pride and hope that the club gaining such popularity here at girls’ school,” says Ms Osempia. “A time will come when our girls won’t necessarily have to wait to get employed, they could just leverage their skills to make a life for themselves and others,” she adds.

Ms Osempia’s comments are supported by Agneta, another Entrepreneurship Club student member and one of the student leaders at the club. Agneta has big dreams of running a successful business and providing employment opportunities for others. 

“I have been a member of the club for two years now,” says Agneta proudly. “The skills that I have gained at the club – both on and off the field will go a long way to helping me run and manage a successful business in the future,” she adds. 

Agneta’s role as an elected leader of the club has further shaped her ambition of starting her own business.

Learning From the Best: Agneta pays close attention to her mentor during a session at the garden.

“Taking on projects with my fellow student members is one of my favourite things at the club,” says Agneta. “We manage the daily operations of our projects at school and that usually means we have to work together and cooperate on things. Some tasks such as digging up the ground, cultivating, and tendering plants require a lot of work and dedication, but ultimately they help foster togetherness and make the harvest at the end worth all the effort!” she says. 

In addition to running a fruit garden at the school, members of the Entrepreneurship Club also run a poultry project at a nearby Moivaro Boarding Campus. The club taps into the unique skills and creativity of students allowing them to not only find solutions but leveraging them to make a living for themselves.

Looking Forward to the Future: Ibrahim, Agnes and Brayan chat excitedly about their future prospects.

When one major life chapter closes, it marks the beginning of a brand new chapter. Facing this reality can be both exhilarating and unsettling at the same time. As graduation approaches, three outstanding Form 6 students were asked about their time at The School of St Jude and their vision for the future. 

There are three key stages of schooling in Tanzania. It starts with seven years of primary school from Standard 1 to 7, then four years of secondary school from Form 1 to Form 4 in Ordinary Level (O Level) studies and two years of secondary school from Form 5 to 6 in Advanced Level (A Level) studies. 

Brayan, who started at St Jude’s in Form 5 and studied Advanced Mathematics, Chemistry and Physics, is a passionate individual who approaches the future with a purpose. “My goal is to address community problems like assisting health and education issues through computer coding solutions,” he says enthusiastically. 

Brayan is determined to study Computer Science at university. He sees himself becoming a businessman that uses his computer skills to create new software to help better the community. When asked about the challenges he may face, he responded with “the possibility of unemployment because of very few job vacancies in my field,” before adding, “that’s why I feel grateful to have gone to St Jude’s, as the quality education I gained here increases my employability.” 

Plugged in: Brayan has a passion for developing his skills in the computer lab.

Ibrahim, who started at St Jude’s in Form 1 and studied Geography, History and Language, is a quiet inspiration. “I loved the holistic education, mainly the opportunity to play sports,” he says beaming. When prompted about what he wishes to study at university, he answered “I’d really love to study a Bachelor in Hospitality and Tourism. I’m passionate about the idea of being in tourism so I can learn about other people’s cultures.” Ibrahim spoke of the invaluable skills he learnt here at St Jude’s. So, while Ibrahim knows there will be challenges ahead, such as moving away from home to study, he feels confident in the problem-solving life skills he gained during his time at St Jude’s.

World of Possibility: Ibrahim is eager to experience and understand the different cultures abroad.

Agnes, who started at St Jude’s in Standard 1 and studied Biology, Chemistry and Geography, presented herself with an upbeat and positive attitude. “I have been nurtured and have grown seeing how people exhaust their potential to the maximum just to make the world a better place,” she comments cheerfully. “The heart of giving not only time but also resources, and to see how people have worked together to end the cycle of poverty makes me honoured to be here at St Jude’s,” she adds with enthusiasm. Agnes is driven by a passion for serving people and leading positive change in her community. This is why she wants to study Applied Biology in Environmental Conservation at university. When asked about where she sees herself in the future, she replied “As a successful person. And I define a successful person as someone that creates positive change in the lives of others.” 

Words of Wisdom: Agnes believes that books are the gateway to the world of knowledge.

With the graduation taking place on the 20th May, it is the beginning of an exciting, new journey for Brayan, Ibrahim, Agnes and the rest of their cohort. These students of St Jude’s are an inspiration in their own rights, all looking towards the future with positivity, determination and enthusiasm.

The Right Tools for the Job: Sebastian uses his brand-new computer to see his classwork clearly.

All students at St Jude’s have overcome barriers to receiving education, but Sebastian has had to contend with greater challenges than many. 

Born with Albinism, Sebastian is in his second year of secondary school and can see at five metres what most people see from 60 metres.

“I have poor eyesight and I can’t always recognise my classmates. In class, it means I can’t see the board very well,” explains Sebastian, who plans on becoming a lawyer.

However, Sebastian’s vision impairment doesn’t mean he’s being left behind at school. He regularly ranks near the top of his class and his report cards are evidence of an intelligent, hardworking student.

“Of course, I do have some challenges, but I do my best to solve them. I work with staff at school and people from Australia who can help me learn ways to solve them,” says the determined Sebastian.

Louise and Noela, both from Brisbane, Australia, first met Sebastian back in 2015 when he was just starting primary school. Both women had experience in assisting students with different ways of learning; Louise, through more than three decades of work with Vision Australia, and Noela, as a special needs teacher. 

“Seb’s motivation and desire to achieve was all the motivation Louise and I needed to make a commitment to assist him. Yes, there would be challenges - Seb in Tanzania and both of us in Brisbane, however, we were not going to let distance deter us,” Noela recalls.

Back to the Beginning: A young Sebastian meets Louise in 2015.

During his primary years, Noela and Louise, along with Brisbane High Rise Rotary Club, donated a tablet to allow Sebastian to take photographs of the teacher’s writing on the blackboard and zoom in to suit his vision, and a slopeboard that enabled him to place the tablet at a comfortable angle.

In 2022, Sebastian moved up to secondary school, an exciting step which meant a more challenging curriculum. In 2023, in recognition of this new challenge, Brisbane High Rise Rotary Club, where both Noela and Louise are members, donated a brand-new laptop for him, software which allows him to access his textbooks electronically, plus new sunglasses, a new stand for his tablet and Bluetooth earphones, so that he can listen to information rather than reading it. 

Ready to Learn: Sebastian receives new equipment from the Brisbane High Rise Rotary Club in January 2023.

He says, “The laptop is helping a lot. It has made it easy for me so I can access textbooks online and zoom in so I can read it easily.”

Sebastian’s new equipment requires a little getting used to, and the two women are full of praise for Sebastian and the staff who work closely with him as he adjusts, saying, “Many of the applications are new to them, but somehow in between their extremely busy schedule, they take time out to attend our Zoom meetings and get Seb’s equipment working.”

When speaking about disability, a common refrain is ‘different not less’. This is true for Sebastian, who, while learning differently to his classmates, is certainly not achieving any less. A talented student, particularly in English and Kiswahili, Sebastian has a bright future ahead of him, equipped with the tools he needs to learn differently and advocate for his needs.