Sunday, December 30, 2007

Where are they from?

Sponsors of the School of St Jude live in 23 different countries. Most of them are in Australia as the following list shows.

Australia -- 1331
England -- 36
Ireland -- 31
USA -- 31
New Zealand -- 30
Canada -- 14
Northern Ireland -- 9
Tanzania -- 5
Italy -- 5
UAE -- 3
Netherlands -- 2
Singapore -- 2
Germany -- 2
These countries are home to one sponsor -- Japan, PNG, Sth Africa, India, Austria, Scotland, Senegal, Denmark, Dominican Republic, France.

How is that for networking?

These sponsors fund the everyday expenses of the school. New buildings and other development is funded through donations.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

MDG African success story

A picture tells a thousand words and this one says SUCCESS loud and clear.

This graph from William Easterly’s paper, How the Millennium Development Goals are unfair to Africa shows the great strides made by Sub-Saharan African countries in working towards universal primary education.

African countries have made massive progress in the past 40 years so that the gap between African countries and other developing countries is now minor. Easterly notes that despite this huge achievement, African countries will be labelled ‘failure’ if they don’t achieve 100% by 2015 because the Millennium Development Goal for education is expressed in absolute terms.

Supporters of the School of St Jude know that they are part of this remarkable achievement. Better than that, supporters know that the kids at St Jude’s are getting a fantastic, high-quality education worthy of their talents.

So, don’t feel disheartened when you read that Sub-Saharan African countries won’t achieve the MDGs, a fresh look at the data can show that they have made very good progress. We'll just keep working at it, shall we?

William Easterly's paper is published at the Brookings Institute.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Norway continues support for Tanzania

Just one week after Tanzania and her 19 major development partners concluded a comprehensive annual review of general budget support, Norway has committed to another five years of budget support for Tanzania.

Norway will give US$72m p.a. between 2007-2011.

Tanzania Finance Minister Zakia Meghji said,
Norway continues to be among the champions of the General Budget Support modality of aid delivery, which is the Tanzanian government's preferred mechanism because it minimises transaction costs and builds the country's capacity through the use of Government structures and systems. The aid also enhances accountability and good governance.

This aid commitment extends beyond one year and is an important response to Tanzania's appeal to her development partners to facilitate medium-term expenditure planning for better coherence and resources allocation.

According to the Norwegian ambassador to Tanzania, Mr Jon Lomoy, the funding is aimed at ensuring that Tanzania achieves millennium development goals of reducing child mortality and improving maternal health.

According to him, infant mortality declined from 95/1000 live births in 2002 to 68/1000 last year while under-five mortality from 154/1000 live births to 133/1000 live births.

We still have a long way to go to achieve the intended targets of reducing infant mortality to 50/1000 live births by 2010 and reduce child mortality to 75/1000 live births.
Organisations like the School of St Jude that rely on donations need to have some certainty about future donations and also some flexibility about how to spend the money.

Your regular donations help the School with on-going running costs and to plan for future developments. And your donations are helping Tanzania meet the Millennium Development Goal of Primary School education for girls and boys.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Tanzania lags East Africa in school enrolment

The latest UN Human Development Programme report 2007 shows the following enrolment rates across primary, secondary and tertiary levels:

Uganda: 63%
Kenya: 60.6%
Rwanda: 50.9%
Tanzania: 50.4%

The Tanzanian Government has encouraged the private sector and religious institutions to build schools, and every region has set high targets to build schools, but there is an acute shortage of qualified teachers and teaching facilities.

Tanzania's education history was checkered during the British colonial era when it closed all schools for ten years, while Kenya and Uganda weren't interrupted.

Given the shortage of teachers and facilities, perhaps Tanzania should relax restrictions on foreign teachers until enough local teachers are trained.

The School of St Jude attracts quality teachers by paying good salaries and offering professional development training. Volunteer teachers also contribute their skills and experience.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

New Government; new policies

The new Labor government in Australia has a couple of things going for it, from my point of view.

Firstly, there will be a new energy in the way the country is led, and this will pervade all aspects of government.

Very importantly, Kevin Rudd has said he will ratify Kyoto. This places Australia at the table of international action on the most important issue of our time.

Secondly, he has committed to increasing Australia's Foreign Aid to .5% as a step towards meeting our commitments to end global poverty and meet the Millennium Development Goals.

So, I'm very glad for this outcome and I hope that the new Government lives up to the potential for good leadership that comes with a new beginning.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Aerogram gratitude

The kids at St Jude's are smart and cute! And they know how lucky they are to be at an excellent school.

People who visit the school always comment on how energetic and happy the kids are. From time to time we get a taste when we receive one of their blue aerogram thankyou letters. Blue aerograms are from another world. They are not used much in the modern world of email, but they are a perfect vehicle for kids in Tanzania to write to sponsors and donors.

It's fun to see the kids growing up through their aerograms. In the early years the aerograms had only a sentence or two and the space was filled with drawings and stickers. Now the kids are getting older and their English is developing.

Our latest aerogram has a lot more writing. It is full of news about Tanzania.

It starts with a 'thankyou' and chitchat about the weather.

Then we get some facts about news about Tanzania and recent events. Volcanos, earthquakes and Tanzanite.

With illustrations of course!

It is very good to stay close to this excellent education project in Tanzania. We watch world developments on a global level, or at a country level, and it is good to also see what is happening in one particular place. I know that our support for this project is just a grain of rice on a global scale, but on the individual level of the child who wrote this aerogram, our support is his whole future.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Christmas is coming

The shops are stocked and it's time to plan your household decorations.

There are lots of places where you can look to find interesting and unusual Christmas decorations and gifts. The best gifts are those that help the maker and the giver, as well as the receiver.

Fair trade crafts from Africa will fit the bill nicely!

What about these cheerful Santas? They are nicely surreal. Check them out at One World Projects.

These Santas (8-9 inches tall) are made in Mali from soft drink cans. They are made by a project that supports anti-malarial initiatives.

I think I will share more of the curiosities I have come across in the next few weeks. You may see something that takes your fancy.

If you'd like to see some Fair Trade crafts, check out your nearest Oxfam shop, locations can be found here. I was pleased to find a new one open up nearby. Now I've got a local source of Fair Trade coffee. It tastes pretty good too.

Free rice

I enjoy the various websites where you click a button and a sponsor makes a donation to a needy cause. I seem to have contributed to several over the years.

Free rice is the latest incarnation. It's a bit addictive because it is set up as a word quiz. Every time you get a word right, a sponsor donates to the UN World Food Program.

Give it a go, and add your bit. How far can you get in the quiz? I got to level 43, but there were a few guesses in there.

Great for trivia fans too.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Bob Geldorf in Brisbane of all places

Bob Geldof still thinks Australia is one of the meanest countries on Earth when it comes to its foreign aid program. So the Sydney Morning Herald reports.

Bob Geldorf in Brisbane, November 2007

Geldorf gave an emphatic response when asked if Australia was shouldering its weight of the world's international aid.

"No, it's embarrassingly pathetic. In fact it is one of the meanest on the planet."

Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd has promised to increase Australia's overseas aid program - now just 0.3 per cent of GDP - to 0.5 per cent of GDP by 2015, if elected.

Geldof was still unimpressed, accusing Australia's leaders of breaking United Nations goals for foreign aid.

Geldof said Australia's commitment to foreign aid was well below the levels of other countries.

"I mean Britain will get to 0.51 per cent by 2012, France by 2013, and the European countries ... will get to 0.7 per cent by 2015," Sir Bob said.

"If you don't get to 0.5 per cent by 2010, you don't get to 0.7 per cent by 2015," he said.

Australia has agreed to the Millennium Development Goals of the UN and has promised to get to 0.7 per cent by 2015.

"And if people think that is a lot of money - what, is 99.3 per cent not enough for you all? Is it not enough?

"It's tragic."


Yes, it is tragic. For the 20% of Tanzanian kids who die before their fifth birthday.

This week, Australians can make their vote count. Lobby your local candidate and seek their support for Australia to honour its commitment to the Millennium Development Goals and end world poverty.

And, you can do your own bit by donating to the School of St Jude. Fighting Poverty Through Education.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Red Green Orange

The first set of traffic lights in town takes some getting used to. What do the lights mean? How do they work? What are cars supposed to do? We take them for granted, or curse them when we get too many reds in the 22 sets in the journey to work.

Arusha, with a population of 400,000, got its first set of traffic lights just last month. The Arusha Times reports on the wonder and confusion they created.

Like a gospel convention, thousands of Arushans every evening since October 9 have been attending the Sanawari intersection to witness what they believe to be a marvel of technology and Tanzania Road Authority's (Tanroad) "criminal negligence."

It appears that lights were installed at only three of the four aspects of the intersection, leaving cars entering from the fourth side to do what they will. There’s a recipe for confusion! A taxi driver commented:

What they have done is unbelievable. The traffic jam now goes about a kilometre each direction. Pedestrians and drivers are scared of being knocked down. What kind of technology is this?

In addition, there have been some problems getting the sequence right. There are times when all lights go red and all movement stops. Suddenly, they all go green and the whole intersection becomes chaotic.

An irate bus driver commented:

They have eyes but they do not see. If there are any engineers in the Municipal Council or Tanroads, which school did they attend? They should be charged with criminal negligence.

They are playing with people's lives. Had it not been for Traffic policemen who have been intervening, all day long, this junction would have been a pool of human blood.

For others however, the biggest problem of the traffic control lights is that they have been placed too close to two bus stands, a taxi docking area and a push cart station on the Sanawari road.

As if to put Tanroads to shame, pedestrians and drivers have catalogued an array of errors and that have been the dominant topic in Arusha for the past one week.

Like officialdom around the world, Arusha officals are passing the buck. The Municipal Council says Tanroads is responsible, and Tanroads says the relevant person is out of town.

In the mean time, Arusha locals have flocked in their thousands to stand and wonder at the operation of the marvellous new traffic lights. Drivers, pedestrians and even some of the traffic police men saw the lights as a mesmerising puzzle. "It is now green, in a few seconds it will be yellowish and then red and cars will stop," an elated man was heard telling scores of people who were just about to cross the road.

There's lots of local colour in this account of the first set of traffic lights in Arusha. I bet it's been a hot topic at the School of St Jude, in the playground and in the staffroom. I wonder how many of the St Jude's buses use that intersection?

Subscribe with Bloglines
Click here to subscribe to this blog.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Sleight of hand

Reuters reports that the European Commission (EC) will give Tanzania US$800m between 2008 and 2013, to help it boost trade. Around 90% of the program is dedicated to macroeconomic aid, support to the transport sector and a trade and agriculture focal area aimed at pro-poor growth.

At the same time, Tanzania is among African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) nations in talks with the EU ahead of signing an Economic Partnership Agreement trade deal before a December 31 deadline.

The EU wants to sign these new Partnership Agreements with ACP countries to replace preferential deals that the World Trade Organisation has deemed illegal.

Opponents of the new Economic Partnership Agreements argue they will weaken developing economies, expose them to cheap European imports and cut government revenues earned from tariffs.

Is this just a sleight of hand? Giving with one hand while taking with the other?

I wonder whether what bargaining power the ACP countries might have?

General budget support

In Tanzania aid accounts for more than 40% of the national budget. Several European countries have been sending their aid money straight into the government’s treasury and not for specific projects. The approach is called ’general budget support’. Proponents of that system say that it forces the government to be accountable to its people and also argue it’s the only way to phase out aid dependence in countries like Tanzania. However, they also advocate that taxes must be raised so they can take over from aid as financing.

Allison Dempster on Africa Files reviews the case for this kind of aid to Tanzania.

Donors and sponsors to the School of St Jude can tie their funds to something specific by sponsoring a child or a bus or a classroom, or they can donate to general funds and give the school administrators the flexibility to apply the funds where needed most.

Donor countries like Sweden and Norway are helping Tanzania grow its administrative capacities by donating to general budget support which Allison describes as
To hear its fans describe it, budget support is the Tom Hanks of foreign aid concepts - ordinary looking, but turns in solid performance most of the time. A no-name’brand approach to international aid, if
you will.

Interesting, yes?

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Election score card

Australian NGOs are presenting succinct scorecards that make it easy to compare the policies of the main political parties on issues of interest.

Ben gives a handy list of eight NGOs that have scorecards on issues like:

Make Poverty History
Climate Policy
Rural Health
Environmental Issues

. . . and others.

On the policy that affects poor countries like Tanzania, the scorecard at Make Poverty History gives the following scores:

Coalition = 2 points
Labor = 8 points
Democrat = 8 points
Greens = 7 points
Family First = 7 points

Check out the Make Poverty History site to see what earned them the points.

Many of us vote from our traditional preferences. See where your preferred party stands on the issues that matter to you. Poverty is one area where there is a real difference between the parties. There's no 'me too' here.

The suffering of the very poor is easily ignored when it is not right under our noses. Your vote can reflect a wider world view if you keep your eye on the larger picture.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Excitement of the new

I thought I would share a couple more pictures of the first night in the new boarding accommodation at the Moshono Campus at the School of St Jude in Arusha, Tanzania.

When everything is fresh and new there is a special excitement. You can see it in the wide smiles of the girls as they explore their new sleeping quarters.

Girls in one of the dormitories

The boys look just as excited by the prospect of sleeping in new beds in rooms with electricity and bed nets.

Only 10% of Tanzanians have electricity. St Jude's selects children from the poorest homes – if they have window glass, electricity or more than two rooms in their home, they usually don't qualify. So this dormitory accommodating is VERY exciting for these kids.

Boys in one of the dormitories

More than that, the boarding school accommodation will give these kids a nourishing evening meal and breakfast, and they will have the conditions they need to do their homework. This will become especially important as they move into Secondary School.

The School of St Jude provides excellent education. Although it has been established only five years, it already has a winning reputation for placing children in the top 10 places in the District in national exams for Year 4. The Boarding School will help these bright children continue to excel in the years ahead as they compete with children from more privileged homes for the limited University places.

Every dollar you donate makes a huge different to these lovely children. They work hard to make the most of your generosity, and to acknowledge the help that is given to them by their families and teachers.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Financial Times reviews Tanzania

In a recent article, the Financial Times gives a good overview of trends in Tanzanian development. It asks the question that many ask – why does Tanzania languish in poverty, given the natural resources and foreign aid it has received?

They note that Tanzania is
Rich in farm land, mineral resources and wildlife, it is free of tribal tensions and has experienced a series of peaceful transitions of power, thanks to a sense of unity forged by Julius Nyerere, its founding father. It also has a stable macro-economic environment and its administration is relatively well-organised: the principal achievements of Benjamin Mkapa, who ruled from 1995 to 2005.

The article notes that the current government's biggest achievement
. . . has probably been the introduction of universal primary education: more schools have been built in the past 18 months than in the previous 20 to 30 years, say officials, although there are now not enough teachers.

And they comment that
. . . In the United Nations' human development index, which measures standards of living and health as well as education, Tanzania has barely moved.

The following statistics reveal the depth of Tanzanian poverty.

According to the last national household survey, conducted in 2000-01, almost one in five people was receiving less than the minimum calorie requirements. More recent government research showed two-thirds of mainland households did not have access to piped water and 89 per cent were without electricity. The country's adult HIV/Aids infection rate is 6.5 per cent and in some regions hits 15 to 20 per cent.

In her 2007-08 budget speech, Zakia Hamdani, the finance minister, said the resources needed for the implementation of the previous administration's growth and poverty reduction strategy - known as Mkukuta - "were immensely large compared with the resources available".

Zakia Hamdani

One explanation for the lack of economic development is the culture of corruption that affects all levels of life in Tanzania. Gemma's book, St Jude's, describes some of her encounters with corrupt practices.

The Financial Times report notes that
Critics contend that Tanzania lacks political accountability, which means people in power are isolated from the masses. One manifestation of the problem is corruption. Suspicions of high-level graft were stoked by several multimillion-dollar projects that pre-dated the Kikwete era: the acquisition of a presidential jet; the building of a new Bank of Tanzania headquarters; and the purchase of a military radar system from BAE Systems. No wrongdoing, however, has been proved.

The current government seems to be ready to tackle corruption to some extent, and several high-ranking members of the dominant political party, CCM, have been arrested on corruption charges Mr Kikwete says: "If people want to get into leadership through corrupt practices, through corrupt means, I think that's detestable. We have to take action."

A bright spot is the increasing force shown by Tanzanian newspapers, which have become increasingly aggressive in their reporting. The number and prominence of civil society organisations is growing.

As I have mentioned before, donor countries are becoming tougher by tying their funds to improvements in anti-corruption practices. The Financial Times article quotes a Norwegian embassy official as noting the intent to take a firmer line on corruption.

Inch by inch, improvements are becoming evident.

Subscribe with Bloglines
Click here to subscribe to this blog.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

African women

It is especially rewarding to see African women in leadership roles. You may remember that the Tanzanian, Asha-Rose Mtengeti-Migiro, is the Deputy responsible for day-to-day management of the UN.

Another African leader is Obiageli Ezekwesili, the World Bank Regional Vice President for Africa. In October, she visited Tanzania to attend the Aid for Trade Conference and to make an on-the-ground assessment of the World Bank’s support in the education and water sectors.

Ezekwesili speaks with students at the Jitihada Primary School in Dar es Salaam

This World Bank website outlines her tour of Tanzanian projects supported by the World Bank.

This very upbeat report outlines the benefits of the projects that have been supported by the World Bank. However, it is a sobering reminder of the scarcity of resources for education in Tanzania.

The Jitihada Primary School was opened in 2004 to relieve crowding in neighbouring schools. Crowding in Tanzanian schools became a major problem when the government removed fees for primary schools in 2002 and millions of poor children crowded into the schools.

The Jitihada Primary School has 10 classrooms and 1,278 pupils. That is 127 pupils per classroom. It has 23 teachers. That is a student:teacher ratio of 1:56. There are 254 desks in the whole school.

This is one of the lucky schools that gets special support from a World Bank program.

Rehema Kiwalaka, one of the senior teachers at the school, explained that the school has made steady progress.

We are grateful to the development partners like the World Bank and the government who have made it possible for us to have schools like this one, which fulfils the dream of Tanzania’s children to have an education.

What a contrast at the School of St Jude where, thanks to supporters worldwide and Gemma's brilliant leadership, academically gifted children from the poorest facilities can get a world-class education.

The School of St Jude is fighting poverty through education and preparing a new generation of girls to step into the shoes of African women in leadership roles.

Subscribe with Bloglines
Click here to subscribe to this blog.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Bring a toothbrush and stay the night

Opening days are so exciting! This one was particularly thrilling for kids at St Jude's because they got to stay in the new boarding accommodation at the Moshono Campus.

For many of these children (aren't they growing fast?!!) this was the first time they slept away from home and the first time they had mosquito nets. Here are some of the girls in their dormitory.

The boarding school will be managed by the Sisters of the Oblates of the Assumption order, which is a great relief to Gemma, as it means the children will get really good care.

The boarding school will provide weekday accommodation for the older children (Yr 6 up) so they are assured of help with their studies and good meals. They stay with their families at weekends.

Here are some of the kids in the dining room.

What an exciting beginning. Think of all the hundreds of children who will benefit from this caring facility in the decades to come.

It is life-changing.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Water tanks

Do you remember my first ChipIn donation tool aimed at raising money for water tanks at the School of St Jude? That was last year. It was prompted because the new classroom buildings at the School did not collect rainwater from the roofs, instead the gutters just drained to the ground.

2006 classroom building at Moshono campus

Well, we are pleased to report that the new boarding school buildings at the Moshono campus are being fitted out with water tanks.

2007 boarding school buildings at Moshono campus

When money is limited, things that are important don't always make it to the top of the priority list. In 2006, the School spent US$8,200 drilling new bores to ensure a reliable water supply. These rainwater tanks will add to the supply of safe drinking water available to the School.

Thanks to the support of many people around the world, the School of St Jude is able to provide good facilities so that academically capable children from the poorest families can get an excellent education.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Pay it forward

When you educate a child, you are paying for the education you received. You are paying it forward.

I pass on to my children what I have learnt and I hope that they pass it on through the future generations. This is how society evolves.

It is a chain of communication into the future – a way of building the kind of future that you want to see.

Recently, on another blog (Spiritcloth), I responded to a 'Pay it Forward' (PIF) initiative wherein the blogger offered to send a handmade object to three people.

“I will send a handmade gift to the first 3 people who leave a comment on my blog requesting to join this PIF exchange. I don’t know what that gift will be yet and you may not receive it tomorrow or next week, but you will receive it within 365 days, that is my promise! The only thing you have to do in return is pay it forward by making the same promise on your blog.”

So now I make this offer to you – I will send a hand made gift to the first three people who leave a comment here. You can get an idea of the things I make on my Flickr site.

In response, I ask you to pay it forward by making a similar offer either on a blog or in your own life.

Donors and sponsors to the School of St Jude are doing a great job of Paying it Forward. They are fighting poverty through education.

Subscribe with Bloglines
Click here to subscribe to this blog.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The web chatting ambassador

It's great to see web technologies like web chat coming into general use. The U.S. Ambassador to Tanzania, Mark Green, featured in a web chat on Monday, October 29. Check out the transcript.

Mark Green

In the exchange, he answered questions that had been sent in earlier, and also fielded live questions from chat participants. The focus was on the Millenium Challenge Corporation Compact whereby the US government will give $698 million dollars over five years to specified infrastructure projects in Tanzania. The projects relate to electricity, roads and water, and the money is paid directly to companies who have tendered for them.

In the web chat, Green sounds like the consummate professional, fielding all questions very carefully, and taking every opportunity to get his messages across. However, he also seems to have a real feeling for Tanzania and to really care about the country. Before he was a politician he spent some years teaching in Kenya. Perhaps that has given him some direct experience that now shows through.

One of the key issues brought up was the question of government corruption. Green pointed to the $11.5 million the US government has contributed toward strengthening the Prevention and Combating Corruption Bureau. He also said that the $698 million will not be disbursed through the Tanzanian government, instead it will go directly to the projects.

It's good to see foreign aid to Tanzania take a variety of forms. Direct budget aid is very useful in helping the Tanzanian government build capacity, while independent aid helps projects more directly.

Check out the web chat transcript to gather more of the specifics of projects under the US government MCC initiative.

Your assistance to the School of St Jude goes directly to them and they are very careful to see that maximum benefit comes from each dollar. It also means that all of the money donated to the school (AU$1 million in 2005, AU$1.7 million in 2006) goes into the local economy providing jobs for hundreds of teachers, builders, drivers, cooks, guards, retailers, etc, etc.

Subscribe with Bloglines
Click here to subscribe to this blog.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Selection process

St Jude's is a school for poor children. There are lots of poor children in Tanzania. Only 10% of homes have electricity, infant mortality is high, 20% of people said they went hungry in the previous year.

So, how do you choose WHICH poor children are going to get a place at this remarkable school? Which poor kids are going to get an excellent education that compares favourably with the most exclusive private schools in the country?

The School has decided to give this opportunity to bright kids because they can make the most of the educational opportunities offered. They are most likely to complete their education and go on to offer good service to their community. The School takes only one child from each family, so that more families can benefit.

How do they select the bright kids?

The School looks for kids who have done 1-2 years of school and first of all every child is given a small reading test. This eliminates a large percentage of them. Every child who turns up gets to try this test, even when we can see that they are barely out of nappies – you never know, the School may stumble across a mini genius … and they are too cute to resist!

Reading test

Those who pass the reading test move to the hall to do a basic maths and general knowledge paper.

Maths and general knowledge

Those who pass are asked to return the next day with documents proving their age and academic history – understandably, the chance of free, high quality education leads to any amount of forging, cheating and fibbing. But that’s not the end of the ‘testing’ - at least three times the School goes unannounced to their homes to make sure that they really do live in genuine poverty. This is necessary as many families ‘borrow’ village huts to use as ‘their home’ for the duration of the testing period.

Here's an example of the genuine article.

These kids and their families understand the massive benefit of a good education. A place at the School of St Jude is a miracle in their lives.

If you give a bit of your surplus, another child and another family will be lifted out of the dire poverty of subsistence. What a difference you can make.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Crazy Fridays

It's that time of year again! Crazy Fridays at St Jude's.

September heralds a real buzz in Arusha – St Jude’s starts looking for the next group of fortunate children who will don the big hat and blue uniform next year. The signs go up, advertisements go out on radio and word of mouth spreads the news – Friday afternoon testing has started! This year the School is looking for 170 bright children from very poor families who will join the school through the child sponsorship program.

The result is that literally thousands of children turn up at St Jude's every Friday to try to win one of the places.

Here's a photo of a recent Friday line-up.

These families know the value of a good education and they want this for their children. Given the demand for places, 170 looks like a very small number.

Your donations and sponsorships make it possible for these 170 to get an excellent education. What a gift! A gift to the child, the family, the district and the whole country.

If you're not yet a donor, I would encourage you to think about making a donation to this very successful education project – Fighting Poverty Through Education.

Friday, October 26, 2007

TV ad for Tanzania

Here is the TV commercial for Tanzania that is screening in the U.S. right now.

This is a first! Pretty nice, yes? Makes you want to go.

It's all part of building the economy. The Tanzanian tourist industry is just at the beginning.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

School of St Jude on Facebook

Check out the new group for the School of St Jude on Facebook.

The School has thousands of supporters and volunteers, mostly Australian. I figure that some of you must be on Facebook. So, check out this new group and share your pictures, news and comments.

Meet other enthusiastic supporters of the School of St Jude and keep in touch.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Tanzania wins another big prize

The Africa-America Institute (AAI) held its 23rd Annual Awards Gala on 19th September in New York. Under the theme Tanzania: Educating for a Sustainable Future, the Gala paid tribute to the People of Tanzania for the East African nation’s significant progress in education, environmental conservation, and in creating a business-friendly environment for entrepreneurs and investment. H.E. Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete, President of the United Republic of Tanzania, accepted the AAI African National Achievement Award on behalf of the People of Tanzania.

Mora McLean, President & CEO of AAI, said,

We commend Tanzania for its extraordinary commitment to build human capacity, particularly by strengthening its educational system at all levels. We celebrate their achievements and progress.

The sold-out black-tie Gala was chaired by American financier and conservationist Paul Tudor Jones II and Reginald Mengi, CEO of Tanzania’s media conglomerate IPP Limited. The AAI Gala raised nearly $900,000, the highest amount raised in the organization’s history, to support AAI’s efforts to help build human capacity in Africa through education and training programs, and to develop programming and forums aimed at educating Americans about Africa. Nearly 500 distinguished U.S. and African leaders and top diplomats attended the Annual Awards Gala to celebrate African achievement, including Dr. Asha-Rose Migiro, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations.

The Gala also honoured a number of other people, including the AAI Distinguished Alumnus Award presented to Gidion Kaino Mandesi, Executive Director of the Disabled Organization for Legal Affairs and Social Economic Development (DOLASED) in Tanzania.

During his remarks Mr. Tudor Jones, who is also founder of The Grumeti Community and Wildlife Conservation Fund in Tanzania, announced the creation of The Kikwete Scholarships, a ten-year commitment by the Grumeti Fund to support tertiary level training for Tanzanian students to pursue studies in the field of environmental conservation at U.S. universities. The scholarships, which recognize President Kikwete’s leadership and commitment to conservation and environmental causes, will support the studies of 20 students over the next ten years.

In his remarks, President Kikwete personally thanked Mr. Tudor Jones for the scholarships, saying it would help further study on environmental conservation in Tanzania.

Tanzania has achieved nearly universal primary education, setting it on target to meeting one of the UN Millennium Development Goals. The country’s education system has grown from just one university in 1961 to some 200 tertiary training institutions at the end of 2006. A new four-year institution, Dodoma University, will soon open, enrolling 1000 students.

Since independence in 1961, the country’s has maintained its pledge to safeguard its abundant wildlife and natural environment. Today, more than 25 percent of Tanzania’s total land area is under conservation, higher than the world average and exceeding United Nations goals.

In the area of business and investment, Tanzania was recently cited by The World Bank as one of Africa’s top two reformers. During the Gala Reginald Mengi, Tanzanian businessman and media mogul, recognized Tanzania’s recent business success and challenged the Western media to show the thriving side of Africa to encourage business and foreign investment.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Pew Survey in NYT Interactive Graph

Tanzanians are more likely to think that their children will be worse off in the future than think they will be better off. They are twice as likely to hold this view compared with people in West African countries like Ghana, Nigeria and Ivory Coast.

This is one of the sobering findings from a large scale survey carried out in ten sub-Saharan countries earlier this year by the New York Times and Pew Global Attitudes Project.
There’s a fantastic interactive graph on the New York Times website. To access it, you may need to register on the NYT site, but its worth it. The NYT also has an article about the poll.

Click the questions and watch the graphs on each country change. It’s worth spending some time looking and comparing the views of the different countries. This is one of the ways that we can step out of our familiar world and try to see the world through the eyes of others.

Through Tanzanian eyes, the world looks corrupt (two-thirds say corrupt political leaders are a big problem), hungry (half had times in the past year when they didn’t have money to buy necessary food) and uneducated (three-quarters say poor schools are a problem).

On the other hand, more than 90% say that President Kikwete is a good influence. This is outstandingly better than any of the other countries in the survey. This is great news because Kikwete was democratically elected and the survey is thorough and independent. So, the findings are not the propaganda of a dictator, instead it is clear that Tanzanians have great confidence in their President.

Here’s hoping that Tanzania can maintain its strong economic growth under good leadership, so its children are, in fact, better off than their parents and grandparents.

If you’re not on a learning curve, you’re going nowhere.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Blog Action Day

Yes, today is Blog Action Day, when all bloggers are encouraged to write about environmental issues.

Bloggers Unite - Blog Action Day

You already know that I’m committed to ending poverty by supporting the Millennium Development Goals. And you know that my focus is on giving the poorest kids an education that will break the cycle of poverty in their family, community and country. That’s why I support the fantastic work being done by the School of St Jude in Arusha, Tanzania.

I am also strongly committed to environmental sustainability. So I want to support Blog Action Day by listing the various things I am doing to lower my environmental footprint.

  • I drive a Prius.
  • At home we recycle paper, plastics and metals; and we run a compost heap.
  • We eat vegetables (five serves a day!) and fish and chicken, in preference to beef, lamb and pork.
  • We think twice before buying ANYTHING.
  • We use gas instead of electricity for hot water and heating.
  • My business aims to be carbon neutral in the next twelve months.

What can you do to lower your carbon footprint? Here's a totally funky calculator where you can measure your carbon footprint and see where to start to make the biggest cuts.

I keep thinking about the possibility of introducing solar power to the School of St Jude. It would be a very sustainable alternative to the reliance on diesel generators for electricity at the school. This is one of the things that I want to explore when I visit the School – maybe next year.

Two blogs that I like for information about environmental issues are:

New Scientist Blog

So, how many Environment-related blog posts have you read today? I haven't seen as many as I thought I would. But maybe that because I'm in Australia, and the rest of the world hasn't arrived in Monday as yet.

Read a bit, do a bit. If you're not on a learning curve, you're going nowhere.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Dairy industry is booming

Brookside Dairy, in Arusha, has launched a dairy farmers program that will boost the company’s daily milk sales in the country to 60,000 litres in the next two years.

Brookside plans to invest up to $20 million in new machinery at its recently acquired Arusha milk processing plant while it works to sign up more dairy farmers. The dairy has already forged partnership with over 2,000 dairy farmers in the three years since starting in Arusha.

Dairy farm in Tanzania

From a start of 1,000 litres per day, Brookside now processes 13,000 litres a day and has set the target of 60,000 by 2009. The Dairy plans to add a new UHT processing facility at a cost of $2 million.

The company has urged the Tanzanian government to remove taxes on animal feeds and farm inputs, improve infrastructure in milk growing areas and provide the farmers with micro-financing to enable growth in the sector.

Brookside Dairy is based in Kenya and has drawn on its experience to provide expertise to local Tanzanian dairy farmers to help them maximize milk production through practicing better animal husbandry.

The Tanzanian District Commissioner, Ms Anna Rose Nyamubi, is working with Brookside Dairy to help farmers improve. She said the Government was working to stamp out the practice of keeping children out of school in order to watch over animals.

My government will punish parents who instead of looking after the animals themselves, give the responsibility to the school going children, especially girls. The Tanzanian government is working towards making every child attend at least primary school.

Perhaps some of the St Jude's families are dairy farmers – we know their kids are at school every day and enjoying it!

This news of investment in the dairying industry in Arusha is one of the many signs of economic improvement in the area. This is the kind of investment that will lift Tanzania out of deep poverty and create a better future for the hard-working kids at the School of St Jude.

Subscribe with Bloglines
Click here to subscribe to this blog.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Wildebeest - Seventh Wonder of the World

The mass migration of 5 million wildebeest in the Mara-Serengeti eco-system that spans Kenya and Northern Tanzania begins in July and ends in late October when the wildebeest migrate back to Serengeti National Park in Tanzania.

The sight of millions of animals in transit attracts more than 300,000 tourists a year and is an important part of the economies of Kenya and Tanzania. Arusha, in northern Tanzania, is the centre of safari tourism in Tanzania.

This year's wildebeest migration has been marked by the shocking death of some 15,000 animals that drowned at the Mara river crossing in Kenya.

The carcasses of wildebeest rotting since last week are being picked over by Maribu storks, vultures, crocodiles and other scavengers.

"It was a strong tide that swept them away," said Mara administrative official, Sarisa Nkadaru, adding that most wildebeest died when they were stepped on by others.

Some officials blame the destruction of the nearby Mau forest for changing weather patterns and affecting tide levels, and they called on the government to curb the deforestation.

"Had the forest not been destroyed, the speed of water in the river would have been checked and the wildebeest would not have been swept away," local conservationist Doris Ombara said.

"We have raised alarm over the dangers of the destruction and what was witnessed last weekend is one of them," she said.

This reminds me that even our most prolific and fertile environments may be showing the effects of climate change. I'm glad that this is becoming more recognised.

Source: Reuters

It is great to see that Tanzanian Tourism is launching its first-ever advertising campaign in the U.S.

After decades of being an add-on trek for safari trips originating in Kenya, Tanzania will be promoted as a standalone destination with its first TV campaign in the states. The ads appeared on CNN during late September with the tagline “Tanzania: Land of Kilimanjaro, Zanzibar and the Serengeti.” Visuals showcase the three destinations within the country and native Tanzanians, while mentioning that the first ancestors of humans called Tanzania home.

I hope that this kind of promotion helps to boost tourism to Tanzania. It is a country with plenty to offer!

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Thanks Mum!

One of my sayings is “Pleasure delayed is doubled”. When we have to wait for something, our appreciation when it finally arrives is especially sweet. So, if we have waited for years to fulfill a deep need, our gratitude overflows.

Gemma Sisia, founder of St Jude’s, was overflowing with joy and gratitude this year when her mother came to visit Tanzania and see the amazing school. Gemma’s mother raised eight children – seven boys, and Gemma. Like any mother, she hoped her children would be independent in the world, but she also hoped that they would stay within reach, especially her only daughter.

So she was dismayed when Gemma decided to make her life in Tanzania, and she did not support the plan. Now, of course, time has passed and she has adapted to the idea. She is proud to encourage Gemma as she builds the School of St Jude into a network of free schools for poor children.

Earlier this year, Gemma’s mother made her first visit to the School, and was overwhelmed by the love and appreciation that flowed to her. Parents at the School queued for hours to thank her for being the mother of Gemma, who has brought such hope and goodness into their lives, by providing their children with the lifeboat of a good education.

The mothers of children at St Jude’s know what it is like to have hopes and dreams for their children. And they have a true sense of the gift Gemma’s mother has given them by raising an extraordinary person like Gemma, and now in supporting her life’s work.

You can get a taste of the joy shared by all when Gemma's mother (and some brothers) visited the School of St Jude earlier this year, in Gemma's words –

As with every visitor to the school on a Friday, Mum and the rest of my visiting family were invited up on stage at the assembly. Bibi Hans, Head of our School Board, told all the parents of our students who had gathered for this special occasion that my Mum may have had eight children but only one daughter and instead of helping her at home, she was in Africa helping their children!

It was quite extraordinary but over a 1000 parents came to the assembly to say thank you to Mum for parting with her daughter for them. They arrived with gifts of cards, African handicrafts, materials, jewelery, food and even animals! And every single person wanted to shake Mum’s and the rest of the family’s hands. It was just so overwhelming but Mum managed to be gracious to every person despite the very long morning and language barrier. I was really touched that so many people showed their appreciation to her – I guess it was Mum and Dad who made me who I am and therefore St Jude’s what it is.

Bibi Hanns, Gemma's Mum, brothers Nick, Paddy and Danny, Yvonne (Nick’s wife) and their boys – Sam and David – and Yvonne’s sister, Anne

And here is the queue of parents snaking through the assembly hall. Each one is waiting their turn to say 'thank you' to Gemma's mum and family.

This took so long that Gemma's Mum had to sit down. Look at those smiles. Imagine receiving this 1,000 times in one morning! That's a LOT of good karma!

Gemma's Mother and Father-in-law were so excited finally to meet Gemma's Mum that they killed their best goat and organised a special dinner for the whole family. Luckily Gemma's Mum is used to living on a farm and meeting her dinner before she eats it!

When you have waited a long time for something important, the arrival is doubly-sweet. Gemma's Mum took a while to get to Africa and now she has been welcomed with joy.

Thanks Gemma's Mum!

Subscribe with Bloglines
Click here to subscribe to this blog.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Things we didn’t expect to learn

When I started this blog, my main aim was to help the School of St Jude to grow so that more Tanzanian children from the poorest homes could benefit from an excellent education.

Just now, Tanzania is experiencing extreme ‘education-stress’ as an extra 2.5 million children have enrolled in primary schools. Average class sizes have risen from 50-something kids, to 70-something, while the government struggles to find more teachers and build more schools.

At the School of St Jude class sizes are under 30 and thee are dedicated teachers who are supported by ongoing training, and good teaching resources. The results are evident in the excellent results achieved by the kids in national exams.

Blogging has opened up new avenues of interest for me, and that has encouraged me to continue. There is lots of advice out there for bloggers – how to produce good content, how to write well, how to work all the SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) tricks, linkbait, and so forth.

All of that is OK, but it is underpinned by the motivation that keeps you thinking and writing. I have discovered that a strong motivator for me is the chance to learn new things. I seem to leap at opportunities to try new things, large or small.

After 10 months of blogging, I feel like I have done a semester course in International Development, or a short course in African economics, and a course in social media. These are my unexpected learnings.

So, my advice to other bloggers is to sniff around for new things to learn so that hearty learning curve can energize your blog.

If you're not on a learning curve, you're going nowhere.

It seems to be the same at the School of St Jude, which is growing so fast that everybody is on a steep learning curve. No wonder the kids are doing so well – learning encourages more learning in a virtuous circle.

If you want to learn a bit about the best development project in Africa and share a learning-journey, read my blog and support the School of St Jude.

Subscribe with Bloglines
Click here to subscribe to this blog.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

No news day

Why is it so hard to find out what's going on in Tanzania? A trawl through international news sites like the New York Times, BBC, Guardian and Reuters rarely turns up any news about Tanzania.

That's because in Tanzania there is no Darfur genocide, no Zimbabwe inflation, no Nigerian murders of Colombian oilmen, no Congolese Ebola. I guess that Tanzania is a quiet corner of the world that is getting on with improving the way things are run.

I did discover that there was a regional trade forum in Tanzania last weekend where Donald Kaberuka, the president of the African Development Bank (AfDB) noted that many African economies are booming, with growth rates of 7%.

Donald Kaberuka

He said that 60% of AfDB's current loan portfolio goes to the core of the productive sector – energy, roads, irrigation, water and sanitation projects.

In the next loan period, the AfDB will have twice the internal funds to lend at low interest rates to support African development. International donors will add to this, giving countries even greater access to funds.

Donald Kaberuka is a very upbeat guy –
I'm very bullish about African economies over the next couple of years. What is important is for African countries to build on the current boom.

As usual, the good news doesn't make the headlines.

The School of St Jude is full of good news and solid achievement. So, when you tire of the attention-grabbing bad news headlines, come and check out the energetic, active high achievers at the School of St Jude.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Gift of greatness

Giving makes us great.
It makes us whole.
It cheers us and lifts our spirits.
As good for the giver as the receiver.

So those Rotary folks who spent three weeks in Tanzania and worked on teacher desks at the School of St Jude are great people!

RAWCS team working on desks.

A group of 30 Rotarians from different parts of Australia visited the School recently and worked on desks for the new school campus.

The desks look great!, don't they? And the Rotarians look great too. Nothing like some humble t-shirts to create a group. Do you recognise some faces here?

They deserve a drink!

Relaxing at the local hangout – the Waterhole

Check out the sponsorship packages at the school. You can donate towards all kinds of things – from mosquito nets to plumbing to teachers and kids.

Giving will make you great. And you'll transform the lives of bright kids from the poorest families.

Subscribe with Bloglines
Click here to subscribe to this blog.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Halloween Lucky Dip

In some countries, this time of year is full of the excitement of planning for Halloween. Kids and parents in the US love to dress up, decorate the house, have parties and, best of all, go trick or treating to gather sweet treats from neighbours.

At the School of St Jude this time of year is just as busy and exciting. It is time to find 170 kids who will enter the School in 2008.

School sign changes from 'No Vacancy' to 'Enrolling now'

For the next few weeks there will be literally thousands of kids lined up at the School every Friday, vying for one of the 170 new places. Here’s a photo from a couple of years ago when 1,500 kids came each week to do the entrance exam.

Friday testing for enrolment

This year the school expect over 3000. The School’s good reputation ensures every parent wants their child in the school.

With these numbers there is a less than 1% chance that an applicant will be successful. The child must be in the top 10% of their government school Grade 1 or Kinder and they must be from a very, very poor family. Also, the School takes only one child per family so that as many families as possible can benefit.

The School does the interviews every Friday from September to December – it takes that long as they get around 20 successful applicants per week. Children can come to the interviews as many times as they want because if they eventually pass then they deserve to be in the School through sheer persistence – determination, drive and ambition is just as important as being bright.

Basically, The School of St Jude exists to give those children who have the aptitude and right attitude the chance of high quality education for free. At a 1% chance of being accepted into the school, families who are successful have done better than a Halloween Lucky Dip – they have won the jackpot!

Read more about this year's selection process and see photos of the kids.

Subscribe with Bloglines
Click here to subscribe to this blog.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

World's biggest prize goes to Africa

The Mo Ibrahim Foundation has announced the world's biggest prize. It will go to past leaders of African states who demonstrated excellent leadership. To qualify, leaders must have been fairly elected and served their term. The prize will be judged partly on the measures established by the Ibrahim Governance Index, which has been developed by the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

Dr Mo Ibrahim, African cell phone entrepreneur, has established this prize

It's bigger than the Melbourne Cup, the world's richest horse race, so what is it worth? Try this:

  • US$ 5 million over 10 years
  • US$ 200,000 annually for life thereafter
  • A further US$ 200,000 per year for good causes espoused by the winner

This initiative seems to be very well thought through, and it has the support of important leaders like Nelson Mandela

Mo Ibrahim has a vision to promote and recognise good governance that will drive Africa's political and economic renaissance. He has established the Mo Ibrahim Foundation to develop criteria for good governance, stimulate public debate and challenge the continent's leaders to set the global benchmark on this issue.

And Kofi Annan

I thank Mo and all those engaged for establishing such a generous prize as an incentive. It reflects the unique insight of Mo the African and Mo the businessman and entrepreneur. May your initiative inspire and celebrate the best of African leadership and equip future leaders with the knowledge and experience they will need.

There's an interview with Mo Ibrahim on AllAfrica where he says –

We exist for Africans. This is an African effort. Our foundation is an African foundation. What we really care about is African civil society and African governance.

Wow! Here is another great philanthropist focusing attention on Africa. I like the idea of providing leaders with a real financial incentive to do good things. It may help counteract the strong temptations to use power for personal gain.

I would encourage you to keep an eye on Africa. Look out for the myriad of initiatives that are springing up to foster better government and stronger economic development in very poor countries. Help comes from all directions.

Some of that help can come from you when you donate to the School of St Jude: Educating future leaders of Tanzania. Who knows? one of these students may win the Ibrahim prize one day.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Tanzania is East Africa’s best hope

ZhongNing Chen from the University of Illinois, visited Arusha and makes the following observations on the Cosmo Club website.

As in many other developing countries, education is the only hope for children in Tanzania to get out of poverty. Education in Tanzania is divided into primary and secondary systems, which together last for 13 years. Primary education, which lasts for seven years, is free and compulsory. Students must write a national examination at the end of primary schoolings. Many children leave school at this point and go to work.

Secondary education lasts for six years. There are few secondary schools in Tanzania and enrollment is less than 7% of all children who have completed primary school. Students must pay fees to attend secondary school. Secondary school fees range from $100 to $400 a year. Many students who have passed the national examination at the end of primary schooling cannot attend secondary school simply because they cannot afford the fees. For most of the girls among them, the only option left is to get married.

In an interview last year, when asked to prioritize the country’s most basic needs, President Jakaya Kikwete outlined the following: more schools, universities, hospitals; more roads; more access to drinking water. Clearly, education and medication are Mr. Kikwete’s top priorities. That fills the hearts of many people with optimism.

Many development economists believe that Tanzania is East Africa’s best hope; so do I. I left Tanzania with hope for the country, respect for its people who never give up with their lives, admiration for the volunteers, and determination to help.

With projects like the School of St Jude, Tanzania is certainly East Africa's best hope!

Subscribe with Bloglines
Click here to subscribe to this blog.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Brittany’s hands on fundraiser

Queensland sixth grader, Brittany, has raised $400 for the School of St Jude by selling hand prints.

Her idea was to create a colourful flag for the School by asking students to donate $2 and make a multi-colour hand print on the large white sheet.

After a month of painting 100s hands and making prints, her flag was finished. Now her flag has been delivered to the School by her mother, Mandy, after she climbed Mt Kilimanjaro as part of the Rotary fundraising climb.

The flag has pride of place in the School library, where it forms a room divider. The kids enjoy matching their hands to the many hand prints on the flag. It gives the St Judes' kids a tangible reminder of another group of children on the other side of the world who care about them and want to help their School.

Subscribe with Bloglines
Click here to subscribe to this blog.