In Tanzania and around the world, children from disadvantaged backgrounds are deprived of their right to quality education, with the main obstinate barrier being poverty. The United Nations named Quality Education as one of its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to be achieved for every child by 2030.
As UN former Secretary-General, Kofi Annan stated “Education is a human right with immense power to transform.” The School of St Jude thus provides free, quality education to uphold this right every child has and recognizes it’s the best way to fight intergenerational poverty. However, at St Jude’s, free education means more than education. It means reliable transportation and ongoing support through boarding, nutrition, and more.
If you are from Australia and you are told a Tanzanian school is providing buses, it may not have a deep impression on you. In Australia, many children will still be able to find their way to school with ease if they happen to miss the bus in the mornings. Their parents, guardians or other trusted adults would most likely be able to drop them off at the school’s doorstep. However, access to safe and reliable transportation to and from school means a lot to the children of Tanzania.
Without a school bus, on average a child may around 7.5 miles to school and back. Due to the distance and sometimes dangers involved with walking, many children will drop out of their schooling at a young age. The national average of children aged 14 to 17 years old that are not enrolled in secondary education is 70%. So, to combat this, St Jude’s provides its students with safe and reliable transportation.
The school has a fleet of 25 school buses that travel almost 430 miles per day on 17 different bus routes, allowing students to get between school and home safely each day. It is estimated that one average bus carrying forty students saves about 310 miles of walking per day for the children. This greatly reduces any psychological stress for the parents too, as they do not need to expend their mental energy worrying about if their child has gotten to school or if they will make it home safely.
The free education that St Jude’s provides also means more support for the parents. On the financial side, parents are relieved of many associated schooling costs including tuition, boarding, nutrition, transportation, and all relevant school supplies such as uniforms, backpacks, stationery, and textbooks. By the time students graduate, our families’ circumstances have holistically improved; from housing and assets, to health and finances.
The ongoing support St Jude’s provides also extends to the students. Firstly, at St Jude’s there are 116 teachers employed either on a full-time or contractual basis at the school, making the teacher-to-student ratio 13-to-1. This translates to smaller classroom sizes compared to government schools that have over 65 students to one teacher on average. Smaller student-to-teacher ratios mean students can benefit from more personalized educational support from their teachers.
Secondly, over three-quarters of the 1,800 students at St Jude’s are in boarding. This means more than education to the students. It means close friendships, support with homework, and a safe place to call home for the term.
Lastly, students also receive three hot, nutritional meals a day. This positively impacts their dietary intake as well as their knowledge of what a healthy and hearty meal entails. This is essential knowledge they’ll carry with them for the rest of their lives and will share with their families and communities.
So, when it comes to answering what exactly free education means? At the School of St Jude, it means continuous support for the psychological, physical, financial, and educational growth and welfare not only of the students but of their parents, families, and communities