Earlier this month Tim, Paul and I had the pleasure of visiting St Jude's School, Arusha, Tanzania. The School of St Jude was set-up by Gemma Sisia (Australian) in 2002 - it began with just 3 students, and today the school has over 1300 students spread over two campuses (Usa River and Moshono). The school is largely funded by Australians, so it was a great feeling to walk in the gates and see the Australian flag waving. We had heard a lot about the school through friends and family, and also through the Australian media - to be finally there and standing in front of the first school building ever built was quite an experience.
My first impressions of the school was that it was much like any school I went to in Australia (even better!), and the school library definatley outshone school libraries I had access to in primary school. I was even surprised to find some Enid Blyton books there!
My second impression was that these kids LOVE school - they are proud to be wearing their St Jude's uniform (they look great by the way!) All the children were polite, and following their teacher's orders (unlike what we used to be like in school!) The selection process for a child to get into the school is very strict - they only take the poorest of the poorest kids around the Arusha area, thus ensuring that each child is coming from a family that will benefit most from the gift of education. The children get given 2 free full uniforms, all textbooks, transport from and to home, boarding once they reach a certain age, meals, and much more.
Some people think that white men and women coming into Africa and handing out free education is wrong, and is doing nothing to solve the problem. After seeing these kids speaking in front of a school assembly in faultless English and beaming with pride... I think those people are wrong. Education is something that all are entitled to... and if governments aren't going to provide this for their youth, then there is something lacking.
One of the men in our tour group (Also an Aussie) was chatting to a young girl in the playground towards the end of our trip... he asked what she wanted to be when she grew up - the response "A criminal lawyer" - we were all blown away, and left with a confidence in St Jude's that can never falter.
To give a child, and their family education, hope, and most of all an opportunity is priceless...