Saturday, February 24, 2007

How many?

School of St Jude, 2007

Here they are! All 870 of them, encircled by their teachers. A handful of these kids have been at St Judes since 2002, while 180 started in January 2007.

Looking at this picture of all the children in their tidy uniforms, one can begin to take it for granted – this is what schools are supposed to look like. Well, it wouldn't be unusual in Australia.

So we have to keep reminding ourselves what a rare treasure this school is. It is rare anywhere, and particularly rare in Tanzania.

It would have been relatively easy to run just-any-old-kind-of-school in Tanzania because almost anything would be better than the general standard of education currently available. But Gemma didn't want to run just any kind of school. She wanted to give poor children the chance for a quality education that would encourage them to reach their full potential.

What she is creating at the School of St Jude is truly astonishing. Already, St Judes is gaining a reputation as one of the finest schools in the country, comparable to expensive private schools. But St Judes does not provide this service for the children of affluent parents, instead the school provides free education to the poorest of the poor.

Many children at St Judes walk for more than an hour to get the bus to school and their main meal of the day is the lunch provided by the school. After school, they have to do their share of the chores that keep their household functioning. Carrying water and feeding animals are typical chores for children in Tanzania.

At school, they learn English as well as the national curriculum of subjects. Families know that to have a child accepted into St Judes is like a lifeline for the whole family, so the school accepts only one child from each family. One of the more immediate benefits of having a child at St Judes is that the English skills of the whole family improve. In some families, parents have been able to find jobs as a result of learning/improving their English through their child.

So, take another look at the photo of the kids in 2007. Next year, there will be an extra 180, and the year after, and the year after. The school is growing. The plan is to grow to carry these kids right through to Year 12. Then they will be ready to learn some more. Tanzania needs all the well-educated citizens it can muster. The School of St Jude is educating the future citizens of the country.

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