Thursday, April 26, 2007

The grand plan

It was great to hear Gemma talk about her plans for the school.

It was clear that once you start helping these kids, you have to stick with it. Gemma can't just help a bit for a few years and then leave them to it. These kids come from the poorest of households. Gemma told us about Albert, who came first out of 17,000 kids in the Standard 4 exams in 2006. He leaves home at 5.00am each day to walk for an hour and a half to the road where the one of the colourful buses from the school comes by. He rides four abreast in the crowded bus along pot-holed dirt roads for more than an hour to arrive at school. Then he studies, eats and plays for the day. Last year, with all the other Standard 4 students he stayed back after school every day, worked through the vacations and came to school on Saturdays to learn more. The jellybean buses do extra duty for the Standard 4 kids to make sure they can get home even after working extra hours.

So, what will happen when Albert finishes primary school? Do you think his parents will magically find the fees to send him to secondary school? That simply can't happen. Perhaps he will eke out a living in subsisistence farming, or in a mine, or as a farm labourer, or menial work in a local market, or domestic servant, or if he is lucky he might learn a trade and become a mechanic or a tailor.

Albert is second from the left in this group of St Jude's kids who were in the top 10 amongst 17,000 students in the local district.

Gemma's school, the School of St Jude, is like an ark for these kids and their families. She plans to see them right through to the end of their education.

She already has plans to build a secondary school for her kids, and at the book launch, she shared with us her dream to build a Teachers College.

I can't wait for the day that we have St Jude's kids come back as teachers.

By the time the oldest kids finish High School, Gemma hopes to have set up a scholarship fund that will ensure that all her kids can get a tertiary education in Africa. She was adamant about the 'in Africa' bit.

There's no way I'm letting them leave!!

Her vision is for these kids to contribute to their homeland. She is educating the future leaders of Tanzania.

This is a massive task that relies on her energy, persistence and endurance. You and I can give our encouragement and support to help ensure that the long term goals are met, step by step.

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