Bursting with pride and tears welling in his eyes, graduate Evance describes what finishing secondary school means to him and his family.
“We have always dreamed about this day and now it’s actually happening. I’ve shouted out loud but also cried. We feel like WOW! There is now a way, there is hope.”
It’s a milestone that the 20-year-old doubted he would reach a decade ago while living in a two-room mud and stick home in Unga Limited, an extremely poor and densely populated area close to central Arusha. Like many Tanzanian dwellings, Evance’s home had no plumbing; water is collected from a tap for a small per-bucket fee and meals for his family of seven were prepared over a simple kerosene-fueled stove.
“My life before St Jude’s was tough, it certainly wasn’t the way it is right now. I will never forget the day I sat the entrance tests. I was with my mum who was unwell but she still gave me the chance by coming with me. I still remember when I told my mum I had been accepted, we couldn’t believe it and then we celebrated. She said I don’t believe my son actually has a bright future,” Evance beams. The last decade of Evance’s schooling at The School of St Jude has all led to this point. He was determined not to be part of the two thirds of Tanzanian teenagers who are not in secondary school each year.
“It wasn’t until I met students from different government schools at a leadership workshop that I really realised St Jude’s has taught me to be bigger than I thought. People in the community respect and value St Jude’s students. It’s hard to find the words to thank my sponsor, it’s not easy to give to someone you don’t know. The most important thing I have gained from St Jude’s is the ability to see that you can help others,” Evance adds.
The bright graduate will first give back to his community as part of the Beyond St Jude’s Community Service Year before the school supports his plans to study graphic design at university.
“I have chosen to do teaching at an under-resourced government school, as I wanted to stretch my hand somewhere else and I want to help people beyond my family. I am full of plans and big dreams,” Evance says, looking out over the Smith Secondary Campus which has been his second home for the last six years.
Joining Evance in sharing his St Jude’s quality education with less fortunate Tanzanians is fellow graduate, Zulfa.
“I studied at a government school before St Jude’s with a lot of kids in one class, with not enough text books and sometimes we didn’t have a teacher for a month. I want to change that so I have chosen to intern as a government school teacher with Beyond St Jude’s. I only have one mission, to leave my community better than I found it,” Zulfa smiles.
The 19-year-old who was raised by her grandma in Mwanama, a poor and semi-rural area not far from Arusha city, also wants to use her education to break down the barriers of gender inequality in her country.
“It is a great honor to be a girl who has been supported through her education and without being another mouth to feed in her family. Many of the girls my age are already wives and already have big families, but I am proud leaving St Jude’s being an independent woman,” Zulfa explains.
With plans to study Development Studies or International Relations and dreams to work for an international humanitarian organisation, Zulfa has these stirring words to share as she takes her first steps towards her bright future.
“I am one of the blessed ones. St Jude’s has taught me to receive freely and give freely. I leave with 169 new friends and as part of the biggest class to be graduating Form 6 in St Jude’s history, I know our class can certainly better our country.”
Evance adds a pledge he will live by long after he walks out of the St Jude’s gates for the last time as a student.
“If I were to tell Mama Gemma and our supporters one thing, I would say, I am really grateful. I want them to know that I won’t let them down and will make sure that what I have gained from St Jude’s, I will invest to change the community around me.”
Can you see the change in Evance’s & Lina’s lives? Help other students like them to reach this important milestone. Sponsor an academic scholarship during our 2019 Annual Appeal.