“Seeing parliamentarians in action was mind blowing,” says Vivian who manages the Beyond St Jude’s team.
Vivian was among 60 delegates from The School of St Jude, including its founder, Gemma Sisia, who were invited by the Speaker to visit the Parliament of Tanzania.
The Parliament of Tanzania is in Dodoma, a region that’s located in the center of the country and is also the country’s capital. It takes approximately six hours by road to travel from St Jude’s, which is in Arusha, Northern Tanzania to Dodoma.
“We arrived at parliament in the early morning and we were shown where to sit. This was my first time to visit the Parliament of Tanzania. I always watch the parliament sessions on TV, but to actually see how the parliament works was an amazing experience.” Vivian reiterates.
“The Speaker introduced the St Jude’s delegates to the parliamentarians, and they were all excited to meet us. The highlight for me was when our Urban Arusha Constituency MP, Hon Mrisho Gambo, came to say hello to us and introduced us to many other government officials including the Minister for Education, Science and Technology, Hon Joyce Ndalichako.”
“The visit to parliament gave us a chance to tell the officials our own story who were all moved by the school's mission. I think it's important for the government to understand who we are and what we do for the country. St Jude's mission is aligned with the government's mission, and through the government's support, we will pursue the same goal of providing free, quality education to bright, poor Tanzanians.”
The country’s Education and Training Policy 2014* directs public bodies to ensure that education is free for all Tanzanian children. This includes the removal of all forms of fees and contributions in primary and secondary government schools. However, whilst most fees are covered, including exam fees, indirect costs for government school students still remain, such as textbooks, uniforms and school lunches.
“I had a chance to meet and speak with the Minister for Education, Science and Technology. It was great to share my story with her,” says Boniface, a St Jude’s alum.
“Most of the government officials didn’t know about St Jude’s and only a few of them have heard the name, thinking it’s just an ordinary school. As someone who received a free, quality education at St Jude's, I believe this has changed their perspective and allowed them to learn more about the school's positive impact on the community. Tanzania needs to learn more about St Jude's mission,” he adds.
Mama Eliza, a parent leader who also serves as a member on the girls’ secondary school board, was also excited to meet the minister: “It was a privilege to meet her. I am just one of many stories of how St Jude's can change someone's life."
Mama Eliza is one of five parent leaders overseeing a larger committee of nearly 50 volunteer parent representatives. Parent representatives act as a communication link between parents or guardians and the school management.
“I shared my experience with the minister of how St Jude’s has helped turned my life around. Before my daughter received an academic scholarship, I used to be a hawker selling vegetables. Now, my life has changed, we moved from a mud house to a brick house and I now have a small shop still selling vegetables and other things,” she adds.
“I believe this visit will open doors for St Jude's. If more government officials know about the school, they can help the school accomplish its mission.”
Visitors are invited by the Parliament of Tanzania at the Speaker’s discretion. Receiving this invitation was an honour and a great opportunity to spread the word about St Jude’s to more government officials.
“It was a positive visit. Gemma managed to present in front of the Minister of Education, Science and Technology. It’s a rare occasion to get an audience with ministers,” says William, a staff representative and a member of girls’ secondary school board.
“The most important thing for an institution like ours is to be known by government officials. This visit has made the government realise that there other institutions that are supporting the education system.”
The excitement was high, especially for St Jude’s students as this was their first time to visit the Parliament of Tanzania. The delegation also had the opportunity to tour parliament house and learn about the history of the building as well as how current sessions are conducted.
Josephat and David, who are in Standard 1 and 2 respectively, were among the students who were picked to be part of the visit, “I enjoyed watching the Speaker running the parliament session,” David says.
Josephat and David are the youngest and newest students and this visit is one they will never forget.
“We got to take photos with the Prime Minister, other ministers and our Urban Arusha Constituency MP, Hon Mrisho Gambo,” Josephat and David shout together excitedly.
“The visit has motivated me to study hard. When I grow up I would like to be the President,” Josephat adds.
The visit to the Parliament of Tanzania has helped to spread the word about St Jude's work to some of Tanzania’s most important leaders. It is also a big step forward in raising awareness about the school's mission of educating bright, poor Tanzanians and empowering them to become community-focused leaders who will find solutions to assist the 45 million Tanzanians living in poverty.
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