Fighting poverty through education – this is our motto, our belief. We’ve been saying this since St Jude’s opened way back in 2002. It’s the first thing you see upon entering our gates and it’s written on our buses that drive all over Arusha. It’s recited during school assemblies and spoken about during celebrations. We preach this creed to every visitor, sponsor, donor and supporter who asks about The School of St Jude.
But what does it mean? Why do we keep telling you this and why do we believe in it so fervently?
Poverty is an all-encompassing term that’s gauged by a “poverty line” where if you live below $1.25 per day, you are effectively living in poverty. Think of trying to live on $1.25 per day. Think about trying to feed a family of four on that amount of money. Where would you go? Who do you turn to? How do you will yourself to keep going, when the emotional and physical strains mount with each passing day of unemployment? How do you look your children in the eye when you can’t feed them or clothe them or house them?
And now think about other factors you don’t immediately associate with poverty, like education, health care, disease, social and economic mobility. Imagine that none of these existed because you couldn’t justify spending the little money you do have on pencils for your son or yearly medical checkups for your daughter.
It’s scary, but millions of people throughout the world live with such circumstances. It’s unfathomable to consider this prospect in the 21st Century, where technological innovation and an interconnected global economy can’t feed people who need it the most. But this is the world we live in and what we have to work with. As individuals, we can’t help everyone in the world, but we can certainly do our part in our local community. Ours is Arusha, Tanzania, East Africa.
The School of St Jude chooses to fight poverty through education. We believe the most effective means to help the most underprivileged children, and by extension their family, is to provide them with an education. Teach them how to read and write, conduct science experiments, solve equations and challenge themselves not just academically but physically and mentally. Give them extracurricular activities for them to explore their artistic side or grow their sporting skills. Educate them on the wider world. Equip them with skills and knowledge to give them the best opportunity to land that great job or help their community.
Through educating one family member, that student will go home and teach his brothers, sisters and even his parents what they’ve learned in school. In a country where children can’t attend crowded government schools because their family can afford a uniform or pencils or books, it’s invigorating to be able to provide a free, high-quality education to children who have a universal right to sit in a classroom and learn, regardless of financial situation.
Fundamentally, our academic staff is facilitating the learning process for the students, and we are seeing results in all different areas. Our students are confident and engaging, unafraid to challenge the status quo. St Jude’s eldest students are passing national exams not only with remarkable scores, but with thoughtfully and critically constructed responses to questions. Schools and educators from around Tanzania are beginning to notice us, inquiring about our teaching methods and practices.
By fighting poverty through education, we hope to raise the education standards so that the poor and uneducated will eventually be on an equal playing field with the rich and educated, dissolving all inequality. We are focusing on our own community in Arusha, but who says we can’t be ambitious? Why shouldn’t we expect our students to become model citizens and exemplary individuals who will be community leaders, heads of government or even world leaders? Why can’t we envision a St Jude’s graduate one day solving some of Tanzania’s toughest problems? We believe in our students and have no reason to doubt them.
On this day, 17 October, a day designated by the United Nations as the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, St Jude’s is doing its part, not just today but everyday, in fighting poverty through education.