A smoky mist hangs over the school grounds, as often seen after a fireworks display, only this particular mist is coming from a busy kitchen. The air is humid, carrying extra weight.
This morning is the first day of classes at St Jude’s Girls’ Secondary School.
Hundreds of students begin filing in, walking along the footpath leading into their new school, heads swiveling as they drink in their new surroundings. Some hold hands, and all are smiling.
The girls line up outside the kitchens, where a group of men are cooking beans and rice.
In front of them is Ms Yukunda, who will begin the day.
“Morning girls,” she says, stretching her arms in welcome. “What is the name of this new school?”
“New Girls,” the students respond.
“Pardon?” says Ms Yukunda, hand to ear.
“New Girls!” say the students, their strong voices echoing around the grounds.
“This is a new school, a new culture,” says Ms Yukunda. “You are here to walk majestically. Are we together?”
St Jude’s Girls’ Secondary School is the only one of its kind in Tanzania, offering a 100% free, high-quality education to hundreds of girls.
In Tanzania, females receive an average of four and a half years of education. This means that by the age of 12, most girls will have left school.
Instead of being in school, teenage girls will face pressures to marry early and remain at home, raising children and caring for the home.
More than 1 in 4 Tanzanian girls will have a baby before the age of 19.
Education is the key to changing this current reality and breaking the cycle of poverty for future generations.
Educated women are less likely to marry early, less likely to die in childbirth; more likely to have babies that are healthy; and, importantly, more likely to send and keep their own children in school.
Standing before Ms Yukunda, tall and proud, are a gathering of girls who have aspirations that extend beyond the confines of their home.
Among these girls, at the front, stands Nasabi who wants to be a doctor and Sara who wants to study law. At the back is Yunis who wants to be an accountant, Brenda who wants to study business and Gift who wants to be a nurse. A crowd of girls, a collection of dreams.
At their disposal is a school with brand new science labs, sports grounds, computers and a library filled with hundreds and hundreds of books.
After a brief run-down of the new campus the students are dismissed and the day begins in earnest.
Today, these girls will sit in chemistry labs and study elements and compounds; they will sit in classrooms and learn about algebra and trigonometry; they will find some quiet time in the library and read Jane Austen and Louisa M. Alcott, or Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Buchi Emecheta.
And in all of these classrooms, these girls will be forging their futures. Futures that will help ensure the prosperity of their families, communities and of Tanzania.
Help St Jude’s provide an education to the female lawyers, accountants, doctors and nurses of tomorrow by donating to St Jude’s today.