The School of St Judes was founded by Gemma Sisia 14 years ago with just 3 students. A beautiful story of boy meets girl; fell in love not just with each other, but Gemma fell in love with wanting to help children who would have otherwise missed out on education. Through Rotary involvement, Gemma started the School of St Judes (St Judes is a patron of lost causes) and the school has been nothing short of a huge success story of Rotary in action. The Rotary Club of Armadale, Australia kick started the massive financial requirement to run the School which now has 1,900 students.
The School is in Arusha, Tanzania. The School's annual budget of $5million is solely funded and raised through a dedicated team of volunteers. The School follows a Tanzanian curriculum; this is exam based with regular assessments to gauge student progress. Each year, over 2000 students apply for entry into the School and they go through a very rigorous selection process to be selected to the fully funded education system. The students need to be bright and poor. Student are expected to achieve at least 70% in all exams.
The children are in School from 8.30am to 5pm. The emphasis on studies meant there is minimal sports played in the school. The senior pupils in the primary school board from Monday to Friday and all the secondary students board fulltime. Boarders are provided with 3 meals a day. The School of St Judes is a non-denominational School. Grace is said before each meal and Christian values are evident within the School. The school provides lunch consisting of maize, beans and rice to all students and staff.
Wendy helped out at the School as a teacher mentor. There are 20-30 students in the class as compared to state school of 70 children per class.
Alex helped out with the School building maintenance doing an audit of all buildings and developing a maintenance programme.
Our Club sponsors Mr Elineema is going on an exchange training program in Kentucky, USA for 3 weeks which is the first time the school has done an exchange program.
Alex and Wendy met the student that they have sponsored for 12 years and visited Victor's family. They plan to attend Victor’s high school graduation in 2017.
Although Swahili is the official language the school is an English language school with only English spoken in the school. For most students English is their third language after their local dialect and Swahili.
Alex & Wendy's living quarters were small but had hot running water and reliable power thanks to generators. They shared a communal kitchen with 10 other young Australians.
Alex and Wendy also managed to fit in 2 safaris and a tramp to Mt Meru (4,500m). They also visited the local Rotary Club of Arusha and Mt Meru.
It was a great adventure with a purpose and would recommend any Club member interested in sponsoring a child to talk to the McKenzies.
A vocational visit perhaps next year for our Club to consider?