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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 15 October 2018

School for underprivileged children in Tanzania issues call for vital support in the UAE

The School for St Jude provides free education to 1,800 needy pupils in the African country  

Gemma Sisia, the founder of The School of St Jude in Tanzania, is calling on the UAE public to help give youngsters a shot at a better way of life. Picture courtesy of The School of St Jude
Gemma Sisia, the founder of The School of St Jude in Tanzania, is calling on the UAE public to help give youngsters a shot at a better way of life. Picture courtesy of The School of St Jude

An African school offering vital free education to nearly 2,000 underprivileged pupils has issued a sponsorship plea to the UAE - to ensure 27 youngsters get the chance of a brighter future.

The School of St Jude, in Tanzania, offers all-important support to more than 1,800 bright pupils who would may have otherwise see their access to quality education blocked by a lack of cash.

The free private school has three branches in the East African nation and benefits from global goodwill to fund its endeavours - much of which comes from right here in the UAE.

The school was set up by Australian humanitarian Gemma Sisia, who landed in Africa to do volunteer work for a year back in 1993 at the age of 22, only to end up setting up home in the continent with a mission to bring fresh hope to the next generation.

Ms Sisia started The School of St Jude in 2002 with a class of just three children, and today the school has over 1,800 pupils.

This year’s intake includes 33 Muslim pupils, 27 of whom remain unsponsored. The school is calling for sponsors in the UAE to come forward and ensure that the 14 girls and 13 boys requiring are able to continue their education. The school already has a few sponsors from Dubai and is hoping the nation's generosity will spread a little further.

Coming from a big family with seven brothers and growing up on a sheep farm, Gemma’s parents instilled in her the belief that education is the most important thing for children.

“My mother bought one dress every decade because school fees were the priority. After finishing university, I wanted to work in Africa to give back because I had a blessed childhood,” said, Ms Sisia.

In Africa, she was working at a private school for wealthy parents. "I thought to myself why are private schools all over the world so expensive?"

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"I told my family that I was going to build a free private school in Africa. I started with nothing now we have about 1,800 pupils all enjoying a free education,” she said.

The School of St Jude will be opening a girl's secondary school next year which will provide for 600 pupils.

The UAE’s involvement in the School of St Jude has grown organically, said the humanitarian.

"We got a visitor and sponsor who was from Dubai and they asked me to stop in Dubai and make a few presentations. We found that some of the donors in UAE went back home and the word spread,” said, Ms Sisia.

"With the new girl's school, we are hoping to get sponsors from UAE. It's very kind of them to sacrifice a little bit of what they have for people,” said Ms Sisia.

People can also help by spreading the word on social media and by visiting the school.

A child has to be bright but under a certain poverty level to attend The School of St Jude.

"If your family has electricity or have in-house plumbing or more than two rooms in your home, you are too wealthy to attend school here. We are looking for families living in mud houses,” she added.

The school sends teams to investigate the children's homes to ensure they fall under the poverty line.

Children start around seven and graduate from school when they are 20. After leaving school, they have to do a year of service where they teach at government schools, and after that attend university.

"The biggest challenge is finding someone willing to sponsor a child, " she said.

Bonds develop between the sponsors and the children and at a recent graduation, many of the sponsors flew to Tanzania just to see their sponsored child graduate.

Bernadette King-Turner, founding partner of Yellow Brick Road Nursery in Dubai has sponsored Glory Joachim since she first started at The School of St Jude at the age of six in 2007. They have also paid for a teacher's salary, a school bus and many mosquito nets.

"I was shopping with my mother in a Brisbane Mall where we visited three bookshops and in each bookshop we noticed the School of St Jude book, so I took the 'message', bought Gemma Sisia's book and within the next few hours I contacted the school and begun our very special and loving School of St. Jude journey,” said Ms King-Turner.

"I arranged for my two nursery managers Ms Elizabeth and Ms Sharon to visit the school during the summer of 2008, so they could meet with Glory, her family and the school faculty," she said.

"I plan to travel to Arusha, Tanzania in June 2019 to attend Glory's graduation ceremony. We will always look out for Glory and be with her throughout her future,” said Ms King-Turner.

There are three kinds of sponsorship and the and the amount remains the same across the years. In the shared sponsorship format, three people can share the expenses of a child which comes to about Dhs164 a month. In a co-sponsorship, two people can sponsor a child for about Dh328 per month. A full sponsorship comes to about Dhs656 a month. Sponsors have to make a commitment of three years.

The sponsorship covers the pupil's educational and boarding expenses including learning resources and classroom essentials, school uniforms, daily meals and clean water.

If you want to support The School of St Jude by providing an academic scholarship for a student, or any of their other requirements, please refer to the website: http://www.schoolofstjude.org