This morning, you can sense the nerves and excitement as hundreds of government school students arrive and take their place in long lines of their peers. Some, who live very far away, even arrived yesterday evening, and spent the night at St Jude’s Boarding Campus.
They came by bus, motorbike and even on foot; some travelled for up to 12 hours from Arusha, Manyara and Kilimanjaro regions. They all made the journey for one reason; to sit our academic examinations in the hope of receiving an A Level secondary academic scholarship to St Jude’s.
In Tanzania, there are only around 600 A Level secondary schools compared to over 17,000 primary schools, so places are highly sought after. In particular, the competition for St Jude’s scholarships is strong, as they give students a chance to receive a quality education, completely free of charge. Our selection process, based on academic results, poverty and school values allows us to identify the brightest, poorest students, in line with our mission.
For many of these students, today will be the beginning of an exciting journey. Form 5 is the final St Jude’s entry point; the last stage at which government school students can join the school to receive a free, quality education. In Tanzania, Form 5 is the second last year of secondary school and marks the beginning of Advanced (A Level) studies.
St Jude’s Student Selection Process begins with an invitation to attend a Student Selection Day. Today’s students were invited following an exceptional performance in Tanzania’s Form 4 National Examinations in physics, chemistry, biology and mathematics.
“We take the results from NECTA (Tanzania’s National Exam Authority) for the combinations we want. Then we invite them by writing letters to their headmasters and the students are informed that they are invited to the exams at our school,” explains Happiness.
After their arrival and registration, the students proceed into the school for a fortifying cup of tea and a scone. Then, it’s time for an introduction by Mr Mcharo, Academic Manager, and before the students know it, the exams begin. Today, students are sitting down to three, one-hour exams.
As they finish each exam, it is relayed to an efficient team of teachers who mark it and pass it on to staff who enter each score into a database, then file it under each student’s name. After three hours, the students hear the command, “Pencils down,” and know that the hardest part of the day is over.
In the midst of all this marking and filing is Happiness… “What we are doing today is filing all the exams, and all the information about each student. Each student writes where they come from, where they go to school, how many kilometres from their home to a bus stop. And all that information and their exams go in one file,” says a busy Happiness.
In a remarkably short time, thanks to the hard work and organisation of staff, like Happiness, the exams are marked and the scores collated. The students who have achieved the required exam mark are notified, and move onto the next stage, when a small army of St Jude’s staff reviews their documents to confirm their age, grades and identity.
Soon, this stage is complete, and approximately 200 students are one step closer to an A Level academic scholarship at St Jude’s. In the coming weeks, St Jude’s staff will visit their homes to assess their living situations. Those who show the greatest need during House Checks will then be offered a scholarship to receive free, quality education at St Jude’s.
This afternoon, as they prepare to return home, the students are tentatively excited. They know the value of a St Jude’s scholarship, and the transformation it could bring to their lives, and that of their families.
While Form 5 is the last point at which a student can enter St Jude’s, it’s an incredibly important entry point. The last two years of secondary education are crucial for students who wish to pursue higher education. At the same time, as students grow older, the pressure to leave school and work to help support their families increases. An A Level scholarship to St Jude’s can help break this cycle and allow students to finish their secondary education. Following this, the opportunities only increase; many St Jude’s Form 6 graduates proceed to higher education with the support of the Beyond St Jude’s Program.
Form 5 Student Selection Day for 2021 has been busy for staff and prospective students alike, but it’s another important step in St Jude’s journey in fighting poverty through education.
Sponsor an A Level academic scholarship and support a St Jude’s student in the final stage of their secondary school journey.