Day in the Life of a Boarder at The School of St Jude’s
ADS is a proud sponsor of The School of St. Jude. This photo essay outlines a day in the life of a St. Jude Boarder. We hope that you’ll help us spread the news about this charity-funded school that provides a free, high-quality primary and secondary education to the poorest and brightest children of Tanzania. Asante Sana!
Every morning of the week, Peter and his classmates walk in single file along the dirt track from the boarding campus to the school. The path runs alongside fields of maize and banana trees, where women bent at the hip tend to their crops. It goes past dust covered houses, where children in worn clothing peep out from the doorways. Further along, the path passes the water tap, where people from all around the village go to fill their empty buckets, which they balance gracefully on their heads on the way home.
At the gates of the school the dirt road gives way to a paved driveway and rendered two-story buildings filled with classrooms and covered in flowering vines.
There is a large open-air dining hall where the students are served morning tea and hot meals for lunch everyday.
Beside that are grassy football fields and brightly coloured swing sets. This is not a typical Tanzanian school. One of the many reasons The School of St. Jude is so unique is that it is funded entirely by donations from generous sponsors, allowing over 1600 students to be educated there for free.
Government schools in Tanzania also provide free education, but unlike The School of St. Jude their classrooms are often overcrowded and lack basic materials for learning such as textbooks and stationary. In many government schools the students are not provided with meals, so those students who do not have food of their own to bring are forced to learn on an empty stomach. As well as this, the teachers are often under-qualified and still make use of the cane for punishment.
So it is unsurprising that every year hundreds of students flock at the gates of St. Jude’s for selection. The sheer number of applicants means that the process of selection must be rigorous. Firstly, the applicants sit several rounds of testing. Those that achieve the highest results in the testing are then visited in their homes in order to ensure that the students that are taken into the school are not only the brightest in the area, but also the poorest.
Peter is one such student. He started school at St. Jude’s in 2008 and this year he and his classmates began their first year of boarding. They live in the boarding campus nearby the school from Monday to Friday and go home to their families every weekend.
When they reach secondary school they will move into the secondary boarding campus where they will live fulltime during the term and go home only during holidays.
The advantage of the boarding facilities is that the students are ensured breakfast, lunch and dinner and they have every opportunity to focus on their studies.
Peter’s family is his mother, father and two younger brothers. They live in a house consisting of three small rooms made of mud and wood, lined on the inside with cardboard and with a single electric light in each. The first room, adorned with pictures of Christ and Bob Marley, has only just enough room for a couch and a small table where they cook and eat meals. The second room is where Peter’s parents sleep, their worldly possessions are stacked in the little space there is around their bed and their clothes hang from the ceiling.
The last room is where Peter and both of his brothers sleep together in a single bed. Washing is done outside in buckets that they fill with water from a tap that is a few metres from their house. On the weekends when Peter goes home he tutors his brothers who attend a local government school, helps his parents with chores, reads and plays with his neighbours.
We must be careful when we talk of poverty and wealth, for they come in many forms. Peter is a part of a family and community on whom he can rely on for love, support and friendship, and in this regard he is extremely wealthy. However, in terms of standards of living, healthcare and opportunity for quality education and employment, Peter and his family are lacking. This is true for many other Tanzanians and is the reason that The School of St. Jude was set up with the mission of fighting poverty through education.
An Australian woman named Gemma Sisia started the school a little over 10 years ago on a block of land that was donated to her by her father in-law. It started with a single classroom, 3 students and 1 teacher. Through the tremendous amount of support that Gemma received, the school has grown at a remarkable rate. It is now Africa’s largest charity-funded school and has libraries, computers, buses, playing fields and boarding facilities.
The school not only gives education to over 1600 students but also provides employment to over 400 local Tanzanians who are hired as teachers, cleaners, cooks, gardeners, bus drivers, and administration and maintenance staff. All food, learning materials, building materials and anything else that is bought for the school is bought locally and therefore gives a huge amount of income to local businesses. As well as local staff, there are over 40 international volunteers who work in the business office, maintenance and as teacher mentors.
For Peter and all of the students at The School of St. Jude, the opportunity to receive a quality education means an opportunity to gain the skills and knowledge to become what they aspire to be. Peter aspires to be a doctor. Each of his classmates have their own aspirations too; to become teachers, engineers, lawyers, accountants, tour guides, musicians, football players, and even prime ministers. Consequentially, this opportunity to become what they aspire to be, also becomes an opportunity to raise themselves and their families out of poverty, giving themselves, their community and their country a brighter future.
by Rachel McLaren